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date: 22 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that literature—or at least certain kinds of literature—facilitates mentalization. Book reading shares some of the same features as mind reading. Psychoanalysis, via the work of Hanna Segal and others, has been interested in the differences between escapist literature and literature that encourages genuine psychological engagement. This chapter engages that issue via the lens of mentalization. It focuses specifically on literary form rather than on content, and examines the ways in which some kinds of literary form facilitate mentalizing capacities. More narrowly, it shows how different kinds of literary techniques—the free indirect discourse employed by Jane Austen, the tight structure of the sonnet form—enable different mentalizing abilities and develop our capacity for self-reflection.

Keywords: psychoanalysis, mentalization, self-reflection, literature, literary form, free indirect discourse, sonnet, Jane Austen

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