Review – The Uses of Enchantment

Posted 23 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno BettelheimThe Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim

In terms of the psychoanalysis here, which is heavily based on Freud’s work, it sounds like a lot of rubbish to me. And if you know Bettelheim’s work from his work on autism, you’re not entirely safe from that here — he only mentions it once or twice, but it’s still jarringly wrong. Still, some of his analyses of the texts on a literary level do make sense, and his suggestions of how some people might apply their own lives in understanding and interpreting them are fascinating. As a literary work, The Uses of Enchantment is a bit of a classic, and if you’re a first year English Lit student wondering why Red Riding Hood’s signature colour signifies her coming to sexual maturity, well, it’s got you covered.

Reading it now, eh. I can appreciate some of the stories he tells about the way people relate to stories, even if the psychoanalysis behind it is laughable at times. (Warning: I was raised by a psychiatrist. I haven’t read Freud for myself, just absorbed a healthy disdain through my mother and what I encountered as a lit student.) Some of his comments on why fairytales endure while modern morality stories don’t work, too. But overall… shrug?

Rating: 2/5

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2 Responses to “Review – The Uses of Enchantment”

  1. Read early on this is heady stuff, but with hindsight — and better understanding of how fairytales evolve, not to mention a partner who’s a psychologist — his interpretations are clearly, shall we say, ‘creative’. Still, much food for thought and a book I’d happily read again.
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    • It’s definitely not a chore to read! I actually found it surprisingly engaging. Just wrong-headed, and particularly offensive about autism.

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