What can the reader make of this paragraph of Mr. Robson’s interview with Josh Cohen?
“Can you imagine if you presented Freud to Jane Austen?” Cohen asked me recently, during a two-hour amble around Kensal Rise, near where he lives in north-west London. “She would think that it was both an absurd confection and so obvious that it’s not even worth remarking.” Cohen, who turned 50 last year, is compact and subtly scruffy. He has a boyish central parting, a salt-and-pepper beard, a serious mouth with mild guppy tendencies, and small dark eyes that project a tickled gleam from behind his black-rimmed glasses. His conversational style is at once forthright and soothingly sibilant as he expounds on the subjects to which he has devoted his life: post-romantic literature, 20th-century theory, the human mind. At times, he is reminiscent of his contemporary Louis Theroux, though he comes armed with a different sort of question, more searching, perhaps, or less confident about what it wants to provoke.’
Perhaps Mr. Cohen’s book is a successor to ‘Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst’ by Adam Phillips? My comment on this ‘biography’ :
On the question, rather conjecture, of what Jane Austen might think of Freud, is a rhetorical prop for Mr. Cohen’s rehabilitative project. On the vexing question of ‘what’ Jane Austen may have thought? in her time and political circumstance, is offered by Marilyn Butler’s invaluable ‘Jane Austen And The War of Ideas’.
Psychoanalysis was declared a ‘Science’ by Freud, that has been the subject to attempts at revisionism and rehabilitation: the Neo-Freudians, Psychoanalysis as Metaphysic, Jewish Emancipation, Jewish Story Telling. The whole of the rehabilitative project, sacrifices the rich vocabulary of The Master: Id, Ego,Super-Ego, The Oedipus Complex, Libido, Cathexis, Transference, Latent Homosexality,etc.. Trying to master this vocabulary was part of my young adult life, reading The New Introductory Lectures On Psycho-analysis , The Future of an Illusion, Totem and Taboo. When fist reading ‘The Lectures’, in the early 1970’s, I thought it was full of holes, yet I just kept that realization to myself.
For an example of the modish character of psycho-analysis on literary criticism, in an oblique, even almost a latent expression:
For a more nuanced evaluation of the ‘Literary Freud’ that doesn’t just eschew hagiography but dismantles the Freudian Myth, see John Farrell’s Freud’s Paranoid Quest: Psychoanalysis and Modern Suspicion.
What is of interest in Mr. Cohen’s rehabilitative exercise, is that the ‘Literary’ is simply a garnish to his particular form of Freudianism, that remains out of reach of the reader, except for its Public Relations guise: the very point of this interview/review.
One final point: Frederick Crews of ‘The Memory Wars: Freud’s Legacy in Dispute’ was published in 1995 as a New York Review Book, and subsequent essays on Freud in the tabloid itself ,and his biography of Freud was published in 2017: Freud:The Making of an Illusion. I read the TLS and New Statesman regularly, yet it appears that one of America’s important literary/political tabloids has not reached British readers?