Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Independent Study Rationale

I wanted to offer a bit of an explanation for why I am spending this week and the next six reading books and watching movies about suicide. The following excerpt from Donald O. Hebb's 1974 APA address, which I first read in my History and Systems of Psychology course, was the inspiration:

It is to the literary world, not to the psychological science, that you go to learn how to live with people, how to make love, how not to make enemies; to find out what grief does to people, or the stoicism that is possible in the endurance of pain, or how if you’re lucky you may die with dignity; to see how corrosive the effects of jealousy can be, or how power corrupts or does not corrupt. For such knowledge and such understanding of the human species, don’t look in my Textbook of Psychology (or anyone else’s), try Lear and Othello and Hamlet. As a supplement to William James, read Henry James, and Jane Austen, and Mark Twain. These people are telling us things that are not on science’s program. (p. 74)

As I began my paper for this course, I referenced that speech. After all, science and literature are distinctly different. Most researchers would doubt the ability of a novelist or poet to add anything to the knowledge of human beings that they could not learn through their own data. It is true that the information grasped through science and the humanities should not be jumbled together, but that does not necessitate dismissing the value of literature all together. In that vein, it is to literature and film that I look for a better understanding of suicide. Edwin Shneidman (1996) suggested four particular “case histories,” saying that anybody who reads them will “know a great deal” about suicide; those recommended are The Awakening, Madame Bovary, The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Anna Karenina (p. 172). He got my list started, and it's only grown more and more from there.

No comments: