Monday, May 18, 2009

Freud's Library/Office

I was looking at the great new site redesign of the Freud Museum in London when I noticed something about Freud's office. Now I have to admit that the work spaces of my intellectual predecessors (in the sense that Borges mentions in his "Kakfa & His Predecessors") have always interested me more than biography. When the American Museum of Natural History put on it's Darwin exhibition, it was great that Darwin's study was on display. It was a nice contrast to the life-size video of Darwin's garden walk. It was neat, but the study was far more interesting to me. It seemed to complement his written works perfectly. The way it opens out onto his gardens is nice.

Emerson's study

Emerson's study, too, speaks just as much about his own complex relationship to nature. There is a great description of Marx from an January 5 1879 Chicago Tribune interview where the reporter writes of Marx's study:
Once into his library, however, and having fixed his one eyeglass in the corner of his eye, in order to take your intellectual breadth and depth, so to speak, he loses that self-restraint, and unfolds to you a knowledge of men and things throughout the world apt to interest one. And his conversation does not run in one groove, but is as varied as are the volumes upon his library shelves. A man can generally be judged by the books he reads, and you can form your own conclusions when I tell you a casual glance revealed Shakespeare, Dickens, Thackeray, Moliere, Racine, Montaigne, Bacon, Goethe, Voltaire, Paine; English, American, French blue books; works political and philosophical in Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, etc., etc.

The British Museum, in many ways Marx's study.

But I obviously digress.

Freud's office has some features that might be of interest. The prints behind the couch, The Lesson of Dr. Charcot and another of classical ruins which is unfortunately not reproduced on the site as of yet. Still, if we look at the room from Freud's position, the arrangement of the figures and antiquities on his desk is not unlike the arrangement of the students in the print of Charcot's lesson. Just as much as these figures inspired Freud, so too does he seem to be to them as Charcot was to his students, enlightening them as to their own meaning and value. Ernest Jones quotes Freud:
"I believe I am changing a great deal. Charcot, who is both one of the greatest of physicians and a man whose common sense is the order of genius, simply demolishes my views and aims. Many a time after a lecture I go out as from Notre Dame, with new impressions to work over. But he engrosses me: when I go away from him I have no more wish to work at my own simple things. My brain is sated as after an evening at the theater. Whether the seed will ever bring forth fruit I do not know; but what I certainly know is that no other human being has ever affected me in such a way."(Life & Work, p.119)

The ruins of Rome come up in Freud's work, such as in passage in Civilization and it's Discontents where he begins to compare the past of "the city with the past of the mind." He concludes that there is no point to doing so, though it is a rather half-hearted gesture. Of course this does not prevent him from later mentioning that the super-ego works like a garrison in an occupied city.

Of course, this is pure speculation on my part, but that is what this blog is for, as opposed to replicating my academic work.