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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Oct 17, 2021

"I jump into a book - we take a book into our hands, and I become everybody, everywhere in every era. I become Emma Bovary - it is a very famous expression by Flaubert saying, “I am Emma Bovary, Emma Bovary c’est moi.” I become someone else in a different place, in a different time, in a different body, sometimes in a different sex. I can even become an alien, a princess, a count. Then I let go of my defenses and I delve into my existential struggles but in this transitional space of literature which is so unique because the story of the characters is our story" 


Episode Description: We begin our conversation about the reading experience with Merav sharing with us her story of growing up in a family of writers. We discuss the factors within us that lead us to read and how it shares certain similarities with the clinical encounter. She considers the use we make of literature to help us make the intolerable more playfully bearable. The work of Jorge Semprun is discussed with examples given from his memoir Literature or Life. Merav shares with us her sense that the depressive position informs and allows for a more ethical engagement with the literary experience. We close with her reading the poem Eating Poetry by Mark Strand. 


Our Guest: Merav Roth Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and a training and supervising psychoanalyst at the Israeli Psychoanalytic Society; She is the head of the psychoanalytic psychotherapy program, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University; and a researcher of psychoanalysis and culture (mainly literature and trauma). She is the former chair of the interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in psychoanalysis and the former founder and chair of the post-graduate Klein studies, both at the psychoanalytic psychotherapy program, Sackler School of Medicine. Together with Joshua Durban, Roth edited and wrote the Preface and introductions to the book Melanie Klein – Essential Papers II and also edited Klein's Psychoanalysis of Children and Brenman Pick's Authenticity in the Psychoanalytic Encounter. Her book Reading the Reader – a Psychoanalytic Perspective on Literature, was published by Routledge and is translated into Spanish. 


Recommended Readings:  

Jorge Semprun. Literature or life - Penguin, 1997.  


Merav Roth. A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Reading Literature - Reading the Reader, Routledge, 2020.  


Merav Roth. Mutual Witnessing between a Writer and her Readers in Etty Hillesum's Diaries, 1941 -1943 Psychoanalytic Review, 107(6), December 2020 


Merav Roth (2018) True Love as the Love of Truth, Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 15:2, 186-198. 


Merav Roth. Transference in the Days of Corona(IPA web) -  


Etti Hillessum's book: An Interrupted Life: Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum [1941-43] 

(a tremendously inspiring diary of a young woman during the Holocaust)