Josh Cohen

Add to shortlist


Assistant: Gabriella Docherty


Josh Cohen is a psychoanalyst in private practice, and Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths University of London. He is the author of Spectacular Allegories (1998), Interrupting Auschwitz (2003) and How to Read Freud (2005), as well as numerous reviews and articles on modern literature, philosophy and psychoanalysis, appearing regularly in the TLS, Guardian and New Statesman. His latest book, The Private Life, was published by Granta in 2013, and addresses our current raging anxieties about privacy through explorations in psychoanalysis, literature and contemporary life.

Josh's next book, NOT WORKING will be published by Granta in January 2019, and a book on the therapeutic power of literature will be published by Ebury in 2020.

Praise for NOT WORKING:

"Josh Cohen knows a great deal about the forces that drive and sometimes overpower us.  In this compelling new book, he explores writers and artists, brings himself and what he has learned from his patients into the mix, to make a passionate argument for the benefits of floating free from the chains of work. Scintillating." Lisa Appignanesi


"A beautifully written and potently argued post-Bachelardian case for reverie, and for stopping to listen to the quieter manifestations of the inner life."

Chloe Aridjis


"An eloquent defence of the necessity of the daydreamer, the artist and the slacker as part of the essential repertoire of our humanity. Offering the delicious possibility of a world slowly imagined differently and more creatively." Maria Balshaw


"Beautifully written and constantly surprising, Not Working combines cultural criticism, psychoanalytic insight and autobiography to cast fresh light on a malaise that every reader will recognise: our compulsion to use time productively, and our fear of what happens if we don't." William Davies, author of Nervous States: How feeling took over the world



Publication DetailsNotes


In this engaging introduction, Josh Cohen argues that Freud shows above all that any thought, word or action, however apparently trivial, can invite close reading. Indeed, it may be just this insight that makes psychoanalysis so many opponents. By reading - closely - short extracts from across Freud's work addressing the neuroses, the unconscious, words, death and (of course) sex, How to Read Freud brings out the paradoxical core of psychoanalytic thinking: our innermost truths only ever manifest themselves as distortions. Read attentively, our dreams, errors, jokes, symptoms, in short, our everyday lives, reveal us as masters of disguise, as unrecognisable to ourselves as to others.



Hitler, wrote Theodor Adorno, imposed "a new categorical imperative on arrange thoughts and actions so that Auschwitz will not repeat itself." Interrupting Auschwitz argues that what gives this imperative its philosophical force and ethical urgency is the very impossibility of fulfilling it. But rather than being cause for despair, this failure offers a renewed conception of the tasks of thought and action. Precisely because the imperative cannot be fulfilled, it places thought in a state of perpetual incompletion, whereby our responsibility is never at an end and redemption is always interrupted. Josh Cohen argues that both Adorno's own writings on art after
Auschwitz and Emmanuel Levinas' interpretations of Judaism reveal both thinkers as impelled by this logic of interruption, by a passionate refusal to bring thought to a point of completion. The analysis of their motifs of art and religion are brought together in a final chapter on the poet-philosopher Edmond Jabes.



The war over private life spreads inexorably. Some seek to expose, invade and steal it, others to protect, conceal and withhold it. Either way, the assumption is that privacy is a possession to be won or lost. But what if what we call private life is the one element in us that we can't possess? Could it be that we're so intent on taking hold of the privacy of others, or keeping hold of our own only because we're powerless to do either? In this groundbreaking book, Josh Cohen uses his experience as a psychoanalyst, literature professor and human being to explore the conception of private life as the presence in us of someone else, an uncanny stranger both unrecognisable and eerily familiar, who can be neither owned nor controlled. Drawing on a dizzying array of characters and concerns, from John Milton and Henry James to Katie Price and Snoopy, from philosophy and the Bible to pornography and late-night TV, The Private Life weaves a richly personal tapestry of ideas and experience. In a culture that floods our lives with light, it asks, how is it that we remain so helplessly in the dark?