London

I saw Freud’s couch this weekend.

One of the highlights of our short break in London was the Freud Museum on 20 Maresfield Gardens, where Freud spent the final year of his life. Emerging from the underground at Finchley Road unto very busy traffic and a KFC, once we had climbed the hill up to Maresfield Gardens we found ourselves surrounded by bird song, stately redbrick homes and nicely kept gardens. The garden, apparently, was one of the reasons why Freud enjoyed the house: according to Anna Freud’s quaint comments to the film fragments shown in the back bedroom on the first floor of the house, her father loved to smell the flowers. My favorite scene was that of a meeting between Freud’s and Marie Bonaparte’s dogs, with Anna Freud’s detailed analysis of the two chow chows’ respective personalities.

Freud’s study on the ground floor remains as he left it, with his desk, library, the couch and the green cup chair he sat in as he listened to his patients. The museum also houses modern art inspired by Freud’s work — it was a bit unsettling to find a colony of glass flamingos nestling among his collection of oriental and classical statues.

Among my acquisitions from London’s alluring bookshops are a new book by Susan Gubar, Rooms of Our Own in which she ruminates on the women’s movement as well as on the state of the humanities today. Her imitation of Virginia Woolf’s style took me some getting used to, but I am enjoying her personal stories on academic life. In the same London Review of Books shop I also bought From Script to Stage in Early Modern England, which contains the text that I was still looking to find for my course on Bodies and Selves: an article on the body of the actor. “E/loco/com/motion” by Bruce Smith analyses the elements of space, bodies, sound and time in early modern performance, with attention to the ways in which the actor’s body interacts with the bodies of the audience. Together with a couple of useful books on modernism and Freud’s Interpreting Dreams (as the new Penguin edition translates Die Traumdeutung), they nearly cost us our flight home, since the security men at Stansted are apparently very strict on their one-bag-of-hand luggage-per-passenger policy.

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