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While countless memoirs have been written about depression and therapy, no one has examined how the "talking cure" of psychotherapy is presented in novels and other works of literature. Beginning with an overview of the principles of psychotherapy and its growing use as a treatment for mental and emotional disorders, Lilian Furst addresses the patient's view of the value of talk.
Patients' portrayals of psychotherapy in literary works range from serious to satirical and from comic to ironic, with some descriptions verging on the grotesque. Furst identifies the overtalkers, undertalkers, and duet voices that shape the individual experiences of psychotherapy. While the voices of the overtalkers overwhelm those of their therapists, undertalkers are reluctant to express or acknowledge their feelings. Particularly revealing are the instances where patient and therapist provide separate but parallel renderings of the same therapy.
Just Talk looks at a wide range of questions about psychotherapy. Furst considers the patient's first impressions of the therapist and how the patient is prompted to engage in talk. She looks for signs of self-deception or self-betrayal on the patient's part and asks how the therapist's behavior affects the patient's responses and the ultimate outcome of the therapy.
Furst examines such well-known works as Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, Plath's The Bell Jar, and Lodge's Therapy, as well as lesser-known novels, to discuss how patients react to psychotherapy as a cure for mental and emotional disorders. Her analysis of these narratives adds significantly to our understanding of the dynamic relationship between patient and therapist and reveals much about the healing process that is not addressed in technical casebooks.
Furst brilliantly applies the methods of literary criticism to a selection of nonfiction and fiction works dealing with psychotherapy. Her penetrating insight is doubly illuminating both for comprehending and appreciating the literature and for clarifying the process of therapy.
"Furst has many interesting tales to tell and stories and books to interpret—but her discussion of the origins of modern psychotherapy alone is excellent, and well worth your attention."—Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy, and the Humanities
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Psychotherapy, Psychotherapy in literature
Medicine and Health Sciences
Furst, Lilian R., "Just Talk: Narratives of Psychotherapy" (1999). Medicine and Health Sciences. 13.