My new favorite blog is Gary Dexter’s How books got their titles. Dexter gives the biographies (nomographies?) of famous books according to the following criteria:
1) the title should not be explicable simply by reading the text of the book itself;
2) each title should be the title of a book or play that has been published as such (rather than e.g. a poem or story that appears as part of a collection);
3) no quotations as titles.
Here’s the story of Freud’s The Ego and the Id, part of the title and concept of which was adapted from George Groddeck’s The Book of the It:
In the early years of psychoanalysis, practitioners were very anxious to establish their respectability as legitimate medical men. This was still an age of sexual puritanism, in which the sexual organs and sexual functions were not generally mentioned in polite conversation, and in which sexual categories as we now know them, or think we know them — homosexuality, bisexuality, transvestism, transsexualism — were still at an early and controversial stage of development. In this atmosphere, George Groddeck delivered a notorious speech to the congress of psychoanalysts at The Hague in 1920, opening his address with the words: “I am a wild analyst.” This was somewhat crass. Analysts were regarded by the public as “wild” already: it was exactly the image the profession wished to avoid. In his speech Groddeck went on to develop the idea that unconscious forces were the rulers of the human organism: even bodily diseases were caused by unconscious conflicts and neuroses. Groddeck moreover insisted on bringing his mistress to conferences and was the author of a risqu