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This article is taken from PN Review 128, Volume 25 Number 6, July - August 1999.

Literature in Analysis: Some Clinical Parallels Felicity Rosslyn

A talk given to a team of psychiatrists, psychotherapists and social workers in a Leicester hospital.

I want to take the opportunity of this meeting to ask a question of you I have increasingly been asking myself: that is, are we doing essentially the same job? On the surface, this cannot be so: you work with families in distress, I work with books and far-from-distressed students; but so many parallels between our aims and methods strike me that I would like to air my thoughts and see if you agree.

The context in which this question arises perhaps deserves some explanation, because I do not think I would have asked it when I started teaching twenty years ago. Since then there has been an enormous expansion of higher education, which has radically altered the nature of university teaching. We have swapped small cohorts of carefully prepared students for large cohorts of relatively unprepared ones; and though our vice-chancellors like to pretend that this makes no difference, it inevitably alters what we can teach in three years, and also the way we teach it. An English Literature degree, for instance, used to be primarily about the literariness of literature - the nature of the different genres, what the writings of a certain period had in common, and what writers made of other writers' work. It assumed the experience of a lot of reading, and the willingness to read a great deal more, to explore or counteract ...

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