English 172

Literature and Psychology: Literature and Therapy

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2020 Lavery, Grace
Lectures MW 1-2 in 2060 Valley LSB + one hour of discussion section per week in different locations (sec. 101: F 1-2; sec. 102: F 2-3; sec. 103: W 3-4; sec. 104: W 4-5; sec. 105: F 9-10; sec. 106: F 10-11)

Book List

Bechdel, Alison: Are You My Mother?; Kane, Sarah: Plays; Laing, R. D. : Knots; Morrison, Toni: Beloved; Stein, Gertrude: Everybody's Autobiography


The originator of the “talking cure,” Sigmund Freud, placed a great deal of faith in the capacities of literature: both to depict and figure psychic problematics for a reader, and to transform an author’s own neurotic condition into art. One credible explanation for such faith in literature is that therapy, as we understand it, is already literary to the core: both take place in and through language, and both seek to transform us and lead us to deeper understandings of ourselves and the world. Yet this view has been challenged, especially by therapists who have sought to downgrade the privileged role that Freud and his followers accorded to language and examined the important role that other aspects of embodied experience play in psychic life, and by writers who in different ways have sought not to eradicate, but to intensify or mobilize the neurotic condition towards other aesthetic, psychic, and political ends. Some of these have, moreover, articulated critiques of the cultural project of therapy as such, portraying shrinks and analysts as closeted serial killers, and therapy patients as mindwiped dittos. This course will examine literature and therapy, then, from a number of different angles: therapy in literature, literature as therapy, therapy as literature, and literary critiques of therapy. The readings include works by Alison Bechdel, Emily Dickinson, George Eliot, Sarah Kane, R. D. Laing, Toni Morrison, and Gertrude Stein, theoretical works by Aristotle, Sigmund Freud, Irvine Goffman, and Melanie Klein, and a handful of movies: Silence of the LambsMidsommar, and Blade Runner.

This course satisfies the university's Philosophy and Values breadth requirement.

Discussion Sections

101 Dunsker, Leo
F 1-2 300 Wheeler
102 Dunsker, Leo
F 2-3 106 Wheeler
103 Elias, Gabrielle
W 2-3 283 Dwinelle
104 Elias, Gabrielle
W 3-4 24 Wheeler
105 Laskin, Emily
F 9-10 283 Dwinelle
106 Laskin, Emily
F 10-11 102 Latimer

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