Emily Troscianko: "Creative bibliotherapy and mental health”


(OBS! Ny lokal)

FD Emily T. Troscianko, TORCH, University of Oxford: "Creative bibliotherapy and mental health: Why we need to assume less and find out more”

Mental illness is a growing public-health concern, and a perennial lack of resources makes treating people using books an attractive option. In this talk I take eating disorders as a case study for what is known and unknown about whether and how different kinds of reading may be therapeutically effective -- or the reverse. There is growing evidence for the efficacy of 'self-help bibliotherapy' (reading self-help books, with or without therapeutic guidance) as a treatment for eating disorders, but so-called 'creative bibliotherapy' (using fiction, memoir, poetry, or drama), although widely practised, is even more poorly understood than the self-help variety. A range of theoretical models exist, but the healing powers of literature are far more often assumed than tested. I report on the results of a large-scale survey conducted with the UK eating-disorders charity Beat which suggests that literary reading has striking effects, both positive and negative, on a range of physical, cognitive-emotional, and behavioural measures central to eating disorders, with a strong contrast emerging between fiction about eating disorders (which were widely perceived as anti-therapeutic) and other kinds (which were generally seen as positive or neutral). The findings conflict with existing theoretical models, which tend to insist on the therapeutic importance of a close match between the reader's and the protagonist's situations, and suggest new ways of understanding the feedback that operates between minds, bodies, and texts.

About the lecturer
Emily Troscianko has a background in cognitive literary studies, investigating readers' psychological responses to fiction; her first monograph, Kafka's Cognitive Realism (Routledge, 2014) focused on the strange phenomenon of the 'Kafkaesque'. This interest in the effects of literary reading led to a project exploring the relationships between fiction-reading and mental illness: a partnership with the UK eating-disorders charity Beat has generated rich survey data on these connections to form the basis for experimental investigation. As well as coauthoring a textbook on consciousness, Emily also writes a blog about eating disorders, called 'A Hunger Artist', for the US website Psychology Today, and is developing an app to support recovery from anorexia.

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