The Porcupine Illusion: Freud’s Prickly Secret

George Prochnik at Cabinet Magazine:

It began as an urbane fable about how to brush down bristling nerves. Sometime in the summer of 1909, not long before Sigmund Freud was due to embark on his only visit to the United States, he was enjoying a cigar in the company of his inner circle in the busy Biedermeier interior of Berggasse 19, when he suddenly announced, “I am going to America to catch sight of a wild porcupine and to give some lectures.”

The declaration no doubt provoked coughs and clinks of china—perhaps punctuated here and there by crinkling mouth-corners in anticipation of Freud’s masterstroke, which would illuminate the conceit. No one credited him with being so avid a porcupine aficionado that he would travel three thousand miles by steamship to make the acquaintance of one specimen of Erethizon dorsatum in its native woodland habitat.

more here.