Just in time for my birthday Saturday, I received a royalty statement for Lost Causes. The book is doing ok in its first year–actually, it’s sold better than I would have expected–but I do have some observations:
- Buy the CD version! (It’s .pdf files, not an audiobook.) A minimum of $13 cheaper for you, and I get royalties right away!
- The book was simultaneously released in paper and hardcover, but the $30 difference in price seems to have driven libraries to buy the paperback. (Which is actually fine, b/c the paperback edition has a very spiffy cover.)
- In fact, I’d be stunned if the hardcover sold enough for me to get any money from that edition. (Not that you’re not welcome to try!)
It’s got chapters on Carlyle (“On History,” “On History Again,” and The French Revolution), Dickens (Barnaby Rudge and A Tale of Two Cities), Brontë (Shirley), and Eliot (the essays, Felix Holt, and Middlemarch), as well as an introduction and epilogue that urge the usefulness of psychoanalytic theory in thinking about narrative and historical change.
On the whole, the book suggests that Victorian narrative frequently seems to respond more subtly to history than does the historicism that has been so popular in contemporary Victorian studies.
And it’s not so dense as the last two sentences imply:
This book’s original title was Lost Causes: Psychoanalysis and Victorian Literature, which was a bit misleading inasmuch as the book doesn’t spend that much [explicit] time on psychoanalysis. But that subtitle did offer both a specific conceptual promise and a bit of gallows humor, which are worth sketching briefly. . . . The joke is less abstract: Defending the psychoanalytic account of anything, much less a nonsexual topic such as history or causality, seems a bit of a lost cause these days, especially outside of English or cultural studies departments. Outside the academy, the clinical efficacy of psychoanalysis is either openly ridiculed or simply bypassed by pharmacological interventions. Inside the academy, the influence of historicist theories, as well as theories rooted in identity politics and the self-inflicted wounds of reductive psychobiographical approaches, have lessened Freud’s influence significantly.
So, buy the book!