Second Chances

Stephen Greenblatt, Adam Phillips


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Yale University Press
14 May 2024
ISBN: 9780300276367
232 pages

From the publisher

A powerful exploration of the human capacity for renewal, as seen through Shakespeare and Freud
In this fresh investigation, Stephen Greenblatt and Adam Phillips explore how the second chance has been an essential feature of the literary imagination and a promise so central to our existence that we try to reproduce it again and again. Innumerable stories, from the Homeric epics to the New Testament, and from Oedipus Rex to Hamlet, explore the realization or failure of second chances—outcomes that depend on accident, acts of will, or fate. Such stories let us repeatedly rehearse the experience of loss and recovery: to know the joy that comes with a renewal of love and pleasure and to face the pain that comes with realizing that some damage can never be undone.
Through a series of illuminating readings, the authors show how Shakespeare was the supreme virtuoso of the second chance and Freud was its supreme interpreter. Both Shakespeare and Freud believed that we can narrate our life stories as tales of transformation, of momentous shifts, constrained by time and place but often still possible. Ranging from The Comedy of Errors to The Winter’s Tale, and from D. W. Winnicott to Marcel Proust, the authors challenge readers to imagine how, as Phillips writes, “it is the mending that matters.”