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Therapy Through Faёrie

Therapeutic Properties of Fantasy Literature by the Inklings and by U. K. Le Guin

Anna Cholewa-Purgal

This book argues that the fantasy fiction rooted in J. R. R. Tolkien’s concept of Faёrie, as represented by the fantasy works of the Inklings and of U. K. Le Guin, has certain psychotherapeutic properties. Faёrie’s generic ‘ethos’ seems to draw on ‘moral imagination’ and on logos (meaning and word), which informs its secondary worlds and encourages a search for an unconditional sense of life, against the postmodern neo-nihilistic aporia. The book postulates an applicability of logotherapy (‘therapy through meaning’, developed after WW2 by Victor Frankl,) to the workings of Faёrie, whose bibliotherapeutic potential rests on its generic marks, identified by Tolkien as Fantasy, Recovery, Escape (breaking free from incarcerating meaninglessness), Consolation, and (cathartic) Eucatastrophe.

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Chapter Three: From neo-nihilism to logotherapy


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Chapter Three

From neo-nihilism to logotherapy

Is there a need for therapy in the (post)modern world, the world which the Inklings were so much concerned with, and whose perils they had forecast and addressed in their work? Which philosophy might run along the lines of the main stream of postmodern culture, if that major current were possible to identity and if the lines were not too erratic to follow? If there is one underlying philosophy in contemporary Western thought, is it therapeutic or perhaps therapeutogenic; that is, does it offer some help and relief, or rather spread the blight, creating a need for some therapy? Which school of (psycho)therapy appears most relevant to the needs of the postmodern man? This chapter attempts to address these questions, trying to point to the existing (existential) predicament of today’s world, and to its more or less conscious search for some remedy, which, regardless of clinical practice, could be universally available to everyone by means of therapeutic narrative in arts, including literature.1 The chapter serves as a rough sketch introducing the issue of logotherapy, a philosophical and psychotherapeutic concept that emerged after the Second World War, in the light of which I attempt to identify in the subsequent chapters a therapeutic potential of high fantasy fiction locked in the legacy of the Inklings and of Ursula K. Le Guin.

Postmodernity and its nihilistic aporia

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