In The New Yorker, Ceridwen Dovey explores the history and practice of bibliotherapy, including her own experience with a program at The New School that used interviews and questionnaires to recommend novels that could prove provocative and therapeutic. Dovey finds that, in order to be effective, bibliotherapists must keep the reader/patient’s individuality in mind, and refrain from the all-too-common practice of “thrusting a book into your hands with a beatific gleam in their eyes, with no allowance for the fact that books mean different things to people—or different things to the same person—at various points in our lives.” Read the article in full here.
Image: Tom Gauld, “Lake Monster” (detail)
In The Atlantic, essayist Leslie Jamison reflects on the words of Virginia Woolf that shaped her view of bodies in literature. Jamison recalls struggling to represent the physical aftermath of surgery, fearing that “writing about bodily experience [is] somehow… the ultimate solipsism,” and ultimately finding solace in Woolf’s essay “On Being Ill.” Jamison connects Woolf’s essay, Elaine Scarry’s theory on pain and speech, and the works of Whitman and Faulkner to memories of her own discomfort in waiting rooms and creative writing classes. Ultimately, she concludes that “the surface of the body isn’t poverty; it isn’t lack,” and moreover, it can be a site of deep connection between authors and readers.
Read Jamison’s piece in full here.
Learn more about Jamison’s volume of nonfiction essays on bodies and others, The Empathy Exams, here.
Image by Doug McLean for The Atlantic.