Monday, May 09, 2016

Norman Holland

from 5 Readers Reading

"I learned that people's responses to literature involved a transformation by means of forms acting like defenses, of drives, impulses, and fantasies back and forth from the most primitive strata of psychic life to the highest. ...literature-as-transformation, which in turn made it possible to explain a number of literary phenomena such as meaning, realism, the relation of the author's personality to his work, the role of embedded myths, the criteria behind evaluation, and so on.
...psychological processes like fantasies or defenses do not happen in books but in people. Within that framework, one can see five readers who are the subjects of this book re-create the original literary creation in terms of their own personalities, themselves understood as continuing processes of transformation." (Note: see his Poems in Persons)

Reading mingles person and thing and person and person, opening up the intrapsychic to an interpsychic model of psychology.

What is that ineffable effect of personality on perception? That is the issue.

Literary critic, Stanley Edgar Hyman, once said, "Each reader poems his own poem."

"...readers read to fit their personalities."

Psychoanalysis is the science of human individuality and literary response when understood as individualistic becomes less than ideal for repeatable experiments. (Hence, the lack of verifiable data when it comes to bibliotherapy.)

(See Caroline Shrodes and David Beich as examples of individual responses to particular literary works and the therapeutic process. Bleich, specifically proposes that by analyzing what the readers find in the text, one comes to understand the text.)

"Who reads what how?" the basic question of this book.

some modifiers omitted and pronouns added for brevity gender equality:
"The work begins in the psychological dynamics of its author, and the act of creating it fulfills those processes--for him (or her). The work finds its fulfillment when a reader gives it life by re-creating the work his (or her) own mind. The text vanishes in the variability of different readers' re-creation of it. ...any given reader's mind will not coincide with the author's processes, nor will one reader's experience match another's and even the same reader will respond differently at different times in his (or her) life."

Meaning, making sense of a text, works as a defense against some source of anxiety the way a dreamer create a sense of unity from disparate parts of a dream., each reader will search out a unifying idea that matches his (or her) particular need for sense and logic.

...writers create by transforming unconscious wishes from childhood. Most people who are not creative writers (or artists) know this transformational process best through dreams.

Both writers and readers use stories to transform primitive, infantile fantasies toward adult themes.

"...each reader creates from the literary work a psychological process in him (or her) self."

"The work lives its own life within me," says Georges Poulet; "in a certain sense, it thinks itself, and it even gives itself a meaning within me." (i.e., We share a common consciousness with the protagonist and author.)

Proust said: In reality, each reader reads only what is already within himself. The book is only a sort of optical instrument which the writer offers to the reader to enable the latter to discover in himself what he would not have found but for the aid of the book.

from The Brain of Robert Frost
paraphrased unless in quotes; parentheses generally indicate my own input
Reading is an individual act as well as an activity shared by an "interpretive community."
"We can imagine writing as reading plus."
We receive both cognitive and emotional returns from the text (whether reading it or writing it) which we then compare with our inner standards, functions of our identities, whether personal or part of our cultural canon.
Identity is what one brings to new experiences and is what is created by those same experiences.
aka a feedback loop.
By making your imagery and metaphors available, you open up a way of self-knowledge and self-change.
Making the reader the active one instead of the text, marks a profound change it literary theory (which is still predominantly white, male, middle class.)
What is the authority of a text if it does not control our response to it?
Robert Frost says in "At Woodward's Gardens," "It's knowing what to do with things that counts."
Through reading we re-create our personal identities by closing feedback loops while adding to our experience of our own identity. We grow and change. (Open system, receive hypothesis, feedback aka accept or reject, close system, repeat.)
"We need to listen to ourselves and the fictions we are subscribing to. If we do, we can improve the metaphors with which we have been describing ourselves to ourselves..."

from Holland's Guide to Psychoanalytic psychology and Literature-and-psychology
One should be mindful of the view widely held today that psychoanalysis is not a science, but a hermeneutic, a system for interpreting texts--language.

For Jung, the personal unconscious consists of memories and images (imagos) collected in the course of an individual life. The collective unconscious, on the other hand, is limited to the imposition of structural laws--archetypes. The personal unconscious is like a lexicon where each of us accumulates an individual vocabulary, but these lexical units acquire value and significance only in so far as they are archetypally structured. ...(if) structures are fundamentally the same for all personalities then to understand and interpret a literary text psychologically it is necessary to analyze the unconscious structure underlying the text itself. This is the model used in traditional Jungian criticism. ...Jung's method is known as "amplification" and extends Freud's concept of free association to include the cultural canon. ...questioning the naive literal level of language and image (imago) in order to expose its more shadowy, metaphorical significance.

Object Relations school of thought includes D.W. Winnicott's interest in the potential space between artist and work of art and between work of art and audience.

Lacan theorizes that the self is a "psychologizing," reactionary fiction that begins in the Mirror Stage  with an unrealizable ideal of an autonomous self. Lacan sees the individual as fragmented and alienated by language, culture and the Other and has been influential in feminist theory.