Whose Story Is It, Anyway? an Interdisciplinary Approach to Postmodernism, Narrative, and Therapy

By Wyile, Herb; Pare, David | Mosaic (Winnipeg), March 2001 | Go to article overview

Whose Story Is It, Anyway? an Interdisciplinary Approach to Postmodernism, Narrative, and Therapy


Wyile, Herb, Pare, David, Mosaic (Winnipeg)


This essay examines the increasing influence of postmodern thinking in literary studies and psychology. It explores, both theoretically and through case studies from both fields, the increasing convergence between the two discourses.

Postmodernism is often characterized as provoking a sort of "anything goes" aesthetic, a relativistic chaos, an abandonment of shared ideals. However, beyond this frequently derogatory reaction, postmodernism suggests a multiplicity of more constructive meanings. For many critics, the term provides a convenient, if problematic, rubric for social, economic, and cultural trends that in many respects represent a resistance to various forms of constraint--social, artistic, and otherwise. In this synoptic essay, we examine what we take to be promising possibilities offered by postmodern insights and their thematic convergence in our distinct fields: psychotherapy and literary criticism. More specifically, we explore the ways in which what might be called the democratization of interpretation in our two disciplines expands the audience for non-expert readings, namely those of readers and therapeutic clients.

As scholars working in very different areas, we are intrigued by the convergence of metaphors in contemporary literature (including literary criticism) and psychotherapy as the disciplines have, over the past few decades, increasingly attended to the historical and cultural dimensions of meaning-making. It is probably fair to say that psychology, a discipline where positivism still reigns supreme, has been slower than literary studies to recognize the complexity of textual interpretation. However, contemporary psychological theory displays a growing interest in the linguistic aspect of psychology, suggesting some striking thematic overlap between postmodern theorizing in psychology and much contemporary literary criticism. These include, among many others, a mutual interest in subjectivity, narrative and textuality, and social construction.

In this essay, we propose that, contrary to the depiction of postmodernism by its detractors as symptomatic of an era of post-industrial malaise and aimless moral relativism, there is much that is hopeful and even therapeutic in its developments. After laying out some of the contributions and controversies associated with postmodern theorizing in these two fields, we ground them in the discussion of two specific texts: one the "text" of a therapeutic client's life, and the other Timothy Findley's novel Headhunter. We argue that postmodernism's embrace of multiplicity and contingency opens texts to alternate interpretations that may be beneficial to clients and readers alike; and, furthermore, that this emancipatory potential may be problematized but certainly not rendered invalid by postmodernism's emphasis on relativism and indeterminacy.

For some time now, psychology and literary studies have been in the throes of a remarkable upheaval, a re-examination of their basic premises. A central feature of this sea change is the critique of positivism and empiricism--a movement away from essentialist and foundationalist premises. In literary studies, under the influence of reader-response criticism, semiotics, deconstruction, and various other strains of literary theory, the emphasis has shifted from literary "works" and their authors to "texts" and their readers. In the process, interpretation has become democratized and relativized, no longer the revelation of a fixed, immutable, transcultural significance.

This trend is also evident in contemporary psychological theory--not merely in Lacanian poststructural psychoanalysis, but also in a range of social constructionist, narrative, and discursive movements that replace scientific metaphors with a literary sensibility. However, our interest here extends beyond the textual dimension that increasingly links these two domains. We also highlight their shared challenge to traditional hierarchies and to the authority of their respective expert interpreters, the psychotherapist and the literary critic. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Whose Story Is It, Anyway? an Interdisciplinary Approach to Postmodernism, Narrative, and Therapy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.