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Rose, G.J. (1977). 5 Readers Reading: By Norman N. Holland. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1975. 418 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 46:341-343.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 46:341-343

5 Readers Reading: By Norman N. Holland. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1975. 418 pp.

Review by:
Gilbert J. Rose

Professor Holland has demonstrated, in his thoughtful and useful study, what many have long suspected: that a given reader will perceive in a given piece of literature that which is most consonant with his personality and intrapsychic life. Holland's principal thesis is that "a reader responds to a literary work by assimilating it to his own psychological process, that is, to his search for successful solutions within his own identity theme to the multiple demands, both inner and outer, on his ego" (p. 128). The study which provided the basis for this interesting demonstration involved a series of interviews with five advanced English-major undergraduates in regard to their readings of Faulkner's A Rose for Emily together with independently-administered projective tests. Through these interviews and tests it was possible to delineate a characteristic "identity theme" for each of the readers and to show that each of them experienced and synthesized the story in the light of that identity theme. The reader who reacts in a positive way to the literary work puts the elements together so that they tend to reflect his own lifestyle. For this to occur, the defenses of the reader must mesh—in some subtle balance—with the work; he then creates wish-fulfilling fantasies characteristic of himself from the material in the work. Finally, he transforms those fantasies into a literary interpretation which is also the product of his own personal style. Thus the reader, out of his interaction with the literary work, constructs something which is new; otherwise, no real act of reading has taken place.

While Holland does allude to the work and the ideas of analysts (Waelder, Erikson, Lichtenstein, and to a lesser extent, Winnicott), one misses a more comprehensive perspective. Perhaps because of this lack, the author permits himself the somewhat excessive claim that this study "begins to become a general account of the relation of the personality to the perception and interpretation of experience" (p. 129).

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