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Book Review

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Sigmund Freud has been on Mark Edmundson’s mind at least since his 1990 book, Towards Reading Freud: Self-Creation in Milton, Wordsworth, Emerson, and Sigmund Freud. In that book, Edmundson uncovers a tension between two sides of Freud: the normative Freud committed to a rigid understanding of human behavior, and the romantic Freud whose restlessness with all given conventions inspired endless self-reinvention in his own writing. This side of Freud shows his kinship to Wordsworth, Emerson, and other writers and provides grounds of resistance to what is most stultifying in his own work. In Edmundson’s view, we need the imaginative energies released by these writers because many of Freud’s basic ideas have by now acquired the status of accepted truths. In fact, Edmundson goes so far as to say that today we are “commonsense Freudians” in much the same way that Chaucer’s contemporaries were commonsense Christians.

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Philosophy and Literature