We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of English Studies


Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Patricia Waugh

Waugh, Patricia (2015). The Novel as Therapy: Ministrations of Voice in an Age of Risk. Journal of the British Academy 3: 35-68.

Author(s) from Durham


Examining relations between 'therapy culture' and the 'risk society', this essay suggests that the novel developed to offer a powerful workout for the kinds of socio-cognitive capacities and gratifications required by the complex and 'emergent' cultures of modernity: recursive skills of mindreading and mental time-travelling, the negotiation of plural ontologies. Its development of a unique mode of 'double voicing' allowed readers to situate the interior life in a complex and dynamic relation to the social. Reading novels challenges the default, making 'safe', capacities of the probablistic or Bayesian brain. In its self-referentiality and invention of the idea of fictionality, the novel provides an education into awareness of the limits of models and their dangerous fetishisation. The novel therefore answers Wittgenstein's search for a discourse that might provide a therapy for errors in thinking, embedded deep in structural and analogical functions of language and especially those perceptual metaphors of vision that carry the epistemological beliefs that looking in is the route to self-transparency.

Support Staff