chapter  5
15 Pages

Sex and the City: Gissing, Helmholtz, Freud

WithDavid Glover

The realization that George Gissing and Sigmund Freud were writing and publishing in the same historical moment still comes as something of a shock. After all, there could scarcely be two more different figures: the brilliant but thoroughly disgraced scholar who despite his aborted education was to become England's nearest approximation to a Naturalist novelist; the ambitious young Viennese doctor who revolutionized the investigation of psychic life, leaving suspicion and scepticism in his wake. George Gissing with Sigmund Freud historically, charting a network of sources in medico-scientific thinking on which both authors drew, though to different effect. While its primary emphasis is upon Gissing, it also focuses upon the 1890s as an especially fruitful period for both writers, and it finds a common influence upon their writing in the work of the scientist Hermann von Helmholtz. Neurasthenia and hysteria may become hopelessly confused in Gissing's work and his haphazard hereditarianism may lie some way behind Freud's more rigorous insights.