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Savery, D.C. (2020). The Art of Personality in Literature and Psychoanalysis by Meg Harris Williams. Published by Karnac, London, 2018; 264 pp, £28.99 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(1):168-172.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(1):168-172

The Art of Personality in Literature and Psychoanalysis by Meg Harris Williams. Published by Karnac, London, 2018; 264 pp, £28.99 paperback

Review by:
Donna Christina Savery

Meg Harris Williams succeeds in setting out her project from the opening lines of this scholarly work, which brings together key concepts in psychoanalysis with ideas in literature and drama. She carefully weaves psychoanalytic theory into an in-depth analysis of literary works from the Greeks onwards, in a seamless tapestry that would make Penelope proud and which engages the reader from a start which begins, somewhat fittingly, with the myth of Prometheus. In the preface, Harris Williams introduces the reader to her canonical selection of literary and dramatic works (these include Greek tragedies of the three major playwrights, as well as Bronte, Kafka, Ibsen and Dostoevsky), and she makes links to psychoanalytic ideas (found in the work of Bion, Meltzer, Klein and Freud, amongst others) upon which she explicates later in the book.

Unlike many books that consider ancient mythology in relation to psychoanalysis, this book neither prioritizes one or two myths, nor does it rely upon a single or dominant version or telling. It is Williams’ in-depth knowledge and passion for her subject that makes The Art of Personality a page-turner from its opening analysis of the term myth itself through the first three chapters, which focus on classical literature. For the psychoanalytically minded literature or drama scholar, this section provides much food for thought, and it will be a rich source of literary information for any psychoanalyst or psychotherapist interested in ways in which both disciplines can inform one another.

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