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The day we were dogs: mental vulnerability, shared reading, and moments of transformation

Aktivitet: Tale eller præsentation - typerForedrag og mundtlige bidrag

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Anne Line Dalsgård - Andet

Charlotte Ettrup Christiansen - Oplægsholder

This paper seeks to carve out new analytical paths in ethnographic investigations of experiences of literature and reading, through the use of literary theory. It builds on fieldwork in shared reading groups in Denmark between 2018-2020. Shared reading is a technique in which prose and poetry are read aloud with breaks, allowing time for discussion. It is increasingly used in Denmark for mental health improvement. In our case, shared reading was offered to young people, who could put themselves under the label ‘mental vulnerability’. The young people who participated in these shared reading groups had struggled with a diverse set of problems and diagnoses. This was for example loneliness, personality disorders, psychoses or anxiety. Taking departure in the fact that the reading groups were framed as an ‘empowerment program’, we ask; how can participating in a weekly shared reading session be said to make a difference in the lives of our interlocutors? Can participation in shared reading be understood as a transformative experience?
In our analysis, we employ Louise Rosenblatt’s notion of the poem as event and the concepts of presence and reading for the Stimmung, as coined by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht. Drawing on detailed examples from reading group sessions and interviews, we show how participants tuned into an atmosphere of presence that arose from the collective engagement in a literary text. Such moments of presence were significant events for the participants, whose everyday lives otherwise were marked by mental illness and a sense of being different from others. The paper finds that the transformative potential of shared reading relates to the brief disappearance of the troubling sense of self with which the young people have to contend on a daily basis. We discuss how our insights align or divert from kindred studies of the therapeutic potential of literature reading.
5 nov. 2021

Begivenhed (Konference)

TitelUses of Literature
Dato03/11/202105/11/2021
Hjemmeside
AfholdelsesstedSDU
ByOdense
Land/OmrådeDanmark
Grad af anerkendelseInternational begivenhed

ID: 226343882