Literary Imagination and Community Mental Health: A Deleuzian Analysis of Discourse in a Fiction Reading Group
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Bibliotherapy, Community mental health, Deleuze & Guattari, Literary imagination, Narrative analysis, Narrative therapy
This study presents an empirical, qualitative investigation of transformations as they occurred in the participants' language during a fiction reading and discussion group in a community mental health setting. Session transcripts have been analyzed from the perspective of researcher as literary critic and through the Deleuzian lens of rhizomatic assemblages (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/2005). This nonlinear, non-hierarchical and non-referential approach re-imagins the relationship among readers, texts and authors. Three themes follow from the rhizomatic perspective on transcript data.
The first of these, Assemblage, details the ways that participants engage in and with fictional story-worlds. This engagement is such that text, readers, author, and other elements of context join together in chains or blocks of becoming. These becomings rely on the mimetic structure of the fictional texts that simulates 'real life' experiences for readers. This special kind of engagement leads to transformations of linguistic forms, images and concepts.
Transformations addressed in the next segment, De-formations, include analysis of mental health talk as it encounters the poetic story world in our sessions. One result of this encounter is the vernacularization of mental health talk. Elements of clinical, usually diagnostic, language introduced in our sessions are transformed in the direction of more colloquial and 'plain-language' use. This result suggests that fiction reading moves mental health consumers away from the problem-saturated language of mental health discourse (White & Epston, 1990) that too often reifies and reinforces illness and dis-ease rather than supporting wellness.
The final section, Re-narration, examines implications of transformations in participants' language for narrative identity, that is, participants' self-understanding and re-contextualization in light of their encounters with the fictional story-world (Ricoeur, 2005). It is possible to discern nascent or potential changes in narrative identity in the language of discussants and to speculate on what changes participants may carry forward into their lives beyond the reading and discussion group.
Finally, implications are discussed for re-understanding the therapist as literary critic and for the development of locally produced bodies of literary criticism as work appropriate to community mental health providers and clients. Also, affinities between literary therapy, bibliotherapy and narrative therapy are discussed.
Teague, R. (2012). Literary Imagination and Community Mental Health: A Deleuzian Analysis of Discourse in a Fiction Reading Group (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1270