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Mander, G. (2005). Defiant Resistance in the Service of the Impoverished Self: Herman Melville's Bartleby: An Illustration of Clinical Casework. Brit. J. Psychother., 22(2):217-226.

(2005). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 22(2):217-226

Defiant Resistance in the Service of the Impoverished Self: Herman Melville's Bartleby: An Illustration of Clinical Casework

Gertrud Mander

Resistance is encountered in psychotherapy in many different forms and can be seen as a survival strategy. This paper interprets the short story Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville as a fictional case of defiant resistance which some patients develop to fend off external demands experienced as intolerable impingements. Clinical material from two particularly intractable cases of narcissistic damage is introduced in the second part of the paper to support the hypothesis that the therapist needs to contain and understand this kind of resistance as a defensive stance in the service of protecting a weak self structure, thereby making the patient feel held and enabled to shed the fear of impingement and to bear what Melville called the ‘cosmic orphanhood’ of man.

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