A therapeutic impulse could be said to stand behind two distinctive responses to ideological criticism that have formed in the field of literary criticism over the past few decades. The first response is best characterized as an ascesis that willfully reduces the methodological field; the second response promotes a sensitized understanding of critical subjectivity under duress, one in need of repair or mood enhancement. Michel Foucault's turn from the analysis of disciplinary power to practices of the self serves as the model for the first response, one that is modest, method based, and focused on the cultivation of ethos by the practitioner. The other model, more emphatically and avowedly therapeutic, is provided by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's influential turn from paranoid reading to reparative reading. Sedgwick's model crucially raises the broad question of how different critical methods imagine the relation between the lived experience of subjects and the larger systems they inhabit, which is of central interest to the genre of the novel as well. This essay aims to explore the relation between psychology and ideological or systems analysis in the history of criticism, paying particular attention to the new interest in D. W. Winnicott and to the divergent ideological affinities—liberal versus radical—of various psychological frameworks.
amanda anderson is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities and English and director of the Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown University. Her books include Psyche and Ethos: Morality after Psychology (forthcoming), Bleak Liberalism (2016), The Way We Argue Now: A Study in the Cultures of Theory (2006), The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Detachment (2001), and Tainted Souls and Painted Faces: The Rhetoric of Fallenness in Victorian Culture (1993). She is also coeditor of A Companion to George Eliot (2013) and Disciplinarity at the Fin de Siècle (2002).
Amanda Anderson; Therapeutic Criticism. Novel 1 November 2017; 50 (3): 321–328. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-4194888
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