Sunday, 04 April 2010

The Healing Power of Jane Austen

Being an Austenite and a Pemberlian, I found this article particularly interesting. The idea of fiction as medicine is not one I'm unfamiliar with, but I've never seen it so clearly and bluntly expressed as it is here. I too delve into particular favourite books based on my mood. If I feel the need to cry, the chapter where Beth dies in Good Wives (the second volume of Little Women and not given the separate title in the US) is a guarantee and the one I almost always turn to. On the other hand, I'm very good at making myself cry. It's really helpful in LARPs, even if it does give me a headache. Austen, Alcott, Blyton, Tolkien - these are all authors I turn to when I feel that there's something not quite right, something missing. After reading Austen or Alcott I almost always feel uplifted and just better about myself. I could say the same about LotR, but I don't usually read it for that purpose as it takes too long and has a more variable effect on me. It worries me greatly that a large proportion of people are taking tv as medication these days, without it having quite the same effect. Perhaps that's just my opinion, but people who aren't readers miss out on so many role models and examples - not just of how to behave and pull yourself through adversity, but how not to behave. And while you can argue that many of the moral messages are overly religious and outdated, they have the same impact. The moralising, preachy tone of Little Women doesn't bother me in the slightest. I delight in it. It's part of the reason I read it. For them, the story of Jesus is the blueprint of how to live a good life. For me, reading Little Women shows the advantages of doing what needs to be done, what is necessary, before you do what you want and have fun. I know many other people will have different choices for their "medicating literature" and I'm always interested in the choices that people make in terms of what they read in this way.

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