Bibliotherapy: Literature as Exploration Reconsidered

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  1. 1.

    Isaiah Berlin, “The Pursuit of the Ideal,” in The Crooked Timber of Humanity, ed. Henry Hardy (London: John Murray, 1990), 13.

  2. 2.

    Louise Rosenblatt, Literature as Exploration, 5th ed. (New York: Modern Language Association, 1995). Further references to this work will be cited parenthetically in the text.

  3. 3.

    Edmund J. Farrell and James R. Squire, Transactions with Literature: A Fifty-Year Perspective: For Louise Rosenblatt (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1990), vii.

  4. 4.

    John Dewey, Art as Experience (1934; New York: Perigee, 2005). Further references to this work will be cited parenthetically in the text.

  5. 5.

    An event that may sound like something out of Bakhtin, but is not. According to Bakhtin, the reason a great work of literature cannot be limited to the meaning intended by the author is that it taps into a genre of unfathomable richness. No author of such a work “could fully command all its important implications, because great literary works exploit resources that have developed over centuries and contain potentials for development over centuries to come. The most important of these resources is genres.” Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson, Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 285. Bakhtin’s thinking about active reading thus bespeaks a profound respect for tradition.

  6. 6.

    See part IV of the 1995 edition of Literature as Exploration.

  7. 7.

    After laying down the principle that the goal of literary instruction is to “develop” people with “flexible, discriminating personalities,” Rosenblatt contends: “Our great heritage of literary experiences can be fully enjoyed and understood only by such personalities” (100). I have encountered the analogous argument that because in today’s world only people with civic consciousness can write well, composition classes should teach civic consciousness.

  8. 8.

    Literature as Exploration abounds with pseudo-clinical pronouncements on the tyranny of society (241), the damage wrought by our “cultural pattern” (160), and the corrosive effects of guilt (164, 192) that are all but indistinguishable from pop psychology. On the pop psychology movement see my Fool’s Paradise: The Unreal World of Pop Psychology (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005). On the ascendancy of the therapeutic culture, see the works of Philip Rieff.

  9. 9.

    Gary Saul Morson,“Anna Karenina” in Our Time: Reading More Wisely (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), 87.

  10. 10.

    John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859; New York: Norton, 1975), 39.

  11. 11.

    Alan Ryan, John Dewey and the High Noon of American Liberalism (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995), 25. On Dewey’s belief that “a new poem is created by everyone who reads poetically,” see 255.

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Correspondence to Stewart Justman.

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Stewart Justman

is director of the Liberal Studies Program, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812;

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Justman, S. Bibliotherapy: Literature as Exploration Reconsidered. Acad. Quest. 23, 125–135 (2010).

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