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Psychosocial Studies and Literature

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The Palgrave Handbook of Psychosocial Studies
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Abstract

Psychosocial studies situates itself precisely at the gap that arises when we try to study either the group as a whole or an individual outside of the social context. In contrast to efforts at simplifying the complexity, psychosocial studies explores “ways in which subjectivities are constituted relationally and through institutional and social processes.” Psychosocial studies takes seriously the Levinasian idea of research as a relational. With literary texts, a psychosocial, psychoanalytic lens affords a means for disrupting our readings so that we can better examine the contextual factors, themselves, and imagine how context drives character and how character, in turn, may drive context.

To illustrate the rich possibilities that accrue when we make use of a psychosocial psychoanalytic perspective to consider literary texts, I will explore the works of British novelist, A. S. Byatt, who actively investigates how subjectivity is formed and informed by the various niches of art, politics, and culture within the nexus of historical time. Looking at the words of the author in relation to her texts allows us to include her direct speech as another lens through which to view the characters she has created. At the core of Byatt’s works is recognition of the subject as both particular and limited, driven by forces she cannot entirely comprehend but can learn to reflect on. Her use of texts within texts invites us to consider the social, cultural, and historical nexus within which character is built and impacted. The Children’s Book, in particular, affords a lens through which to highlight ways in which literature can provide opportunities for psychosocial exploration. Real and imaginary world collide in a tightly knit volume that spans generations to consider ways in which we are formed and deformed by culture, providing a useful illustration of ways in which a psychosocial study of literature can open up various areas of exploration.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Arabella Kurtz, present at the interview.

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Correspondence to Marilyn Charles .

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Charles, M. (2022). Psychosocial Studies and Literature. In: Frosh, S., Vyrgioti, M., Walsh, J. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Psychosocial Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61510-9_38-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61510-9_38-1

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