A Scream Goes Through the House

What Literature Teaches Us About Life

Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
“For too long we have been encouraged to see culture as an affair of intellect, and reading as a solitary exercise. But the truth is different: literature and art are pathways of feeling, and our encounter with them is social, inscribing us in a larger community.... Through art we discover that we are not alone.”

So writes the esteemed Brown University professor Arnold Weinstein in this brilliant, radical exploration of Western literature. In the tradition of Harold Bloom and Jacques Barzun, Weinstein guides us through great works of art, to reveal how literature constitutes nothing less than a feast for the heart. Our encounter with literature and art can be a unique form of human connection, an entry into the storehouse of feeling.

Writing about works by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Munch, Proust, O’Neill, Burroughs, DeLillo, Tony Kushner, Toni Morrison, and others, Weinstein explores how writers and artists give us a vision of what human life is really all about. Reading is an affair of the heart as well as of the mind, deepening our sense of the fundamental forces and emotions that govern our lives, including fear, pain, illness, loss, depression, death, and love.

Provocative, beautifully written, essential, A Scream Goes Through the House traces the human cry that echoes in literature through the ages, demonstrating how intense feelings are heard and shared. With intellectual insight and emotional acumen, Weinstein reveals how the scream that resounds through the house of literature, history, the body, and the family shows us who we really are and joins us together in a vast and timeless community.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter One

a scream goes through the house
In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear.
–William Blake, “London”

I was walking along a road with two friends–the sun was going down...
Read More


“Simply put, A Scream Goes Through the House is a breakthrough book, a triumph of scholarship and writing. What a treat it is to have Weinstein guide us through some of the canonical works of literature and show us what we have intuitively suspected: that literature does more than just entertain; literature educates, literature provides us with a map for our journey, and literature gives the journey meaning. Indeed, A Scream Goes Through the House proves its own thesis by doing just that for the reader. It is a book for the ages.”
Abraham Verghese, author of The Tennis Partner and My Own Country

A Scream Goes Through the House is the crown of Arnold Weinstein’s distinguished career as a teacher and writer, a deep response to great works of prose and poetry, art, theater, and film from Sophocles and Shakespeare to a wealth of modern authors. This book is literally a matter of life and death, for it celebrates the bonds between our mortality and our survival, our pain and our sensitivity, our frailty and our strength, our individual and communal selves, the vital bridges only works of imagination can construct. A scream goes through the house, and whether it is the house of art or the house of human-kind, that scream—thanks to Weinstein’s insight, eloquence, and courage—pierces the heart, wounding us even as it makes us whole and well. A passionate tribute to the power of art to restore us all.”
Robert Fagles

From the Hardcover edition.