How to Live. What to Do: In Search of Ourselves in Life and Literature (Hardcover)
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Focusing on some of the best-known characters in all of literature--chosen to trace the arc from childhood to old age--a brilliant psychoanalyst and professor of literature shows how our inner lives become at once stranger and more familiar when seen through the prism of fiction. In supple and elegant prose, and with all the expertise and insight of his dual professions, Josh Cohen explores a new way for us to understand ourselves. He helps us see what Lewis Carroll's Alice and Harper Lee's Scout Finch can teach us about childhood. He delineates the mysteries of education as depicted in Jane Eyre and as seen through the eyes of Sandy Stranger in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. He discusses the need for adolescent rebellion as embodied in John Grimes in James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain and in Ruth in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. He makes clear what Goethe's Young Werther and Sally Rooney's Frances have--and don't have--in common as they experience first love; how Jay Gatsby's ambition defines his life; how Middlemarch's Dorothea Brooke deals with the vicissitudes of marriage; and how Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway copes with the inexorability of disappointment. And vis- -vis old age and death, Cohen considers what wisdom we may glean from John Ames in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead and from Don Fabrizio in Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard. From maddening jealousy to unbearable grief, from transcendent love to bottomless hatred, How to Live. What to Do invites us to contemplate profound questions about the human experience and about the ties that bind us to one another.
About the Author
JOSH COHEN is a psychoanalyst in private practice and a professor of modern literary theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of books and articles on modern literature, cultural theory, and psychoanalysis, including How to Read: Freud, The Private Life: Our Everyday Self in an Age of Intrusion, and Not Working: Why We Have to Stop. He lives in London.