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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Mindreadings: Literature and Psychiatry

Edited by Femi Oyebode

Price: £15.00

Members' discount available

Published: Jan 2009

Format: Paperback

Number of pages: 142

ISBN: 9781904671602

Mindreadings: Literature and Psychiatry

What can psychiatry learn from literature?

Literature can clarify, examine and define emotions, behaviour and thoughts. For psychiatrists, literary texts can be valuable tools for furthering our understanding of patients and their conditions. This book explores the fruitful relationships between the written word and central aspects of psychiatric practice. It includes newly commissioned chapters plus articles originally published in the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment that have been reworked and updated.

The contributors examine:

  • Why doctors should read fiction and the place of literature in medical education.
  • The varied genres of autobiography, fiction, poetry and letters.
  • A range of topics, including addictions, ageing and dementia, intellectual disability and autism.

The authors explore the description and representation of mental states, the lived experience of distress, the character of psychiatry as a system and the institutional practices of psychiatry.

Although written by psychiatrists primarily for psychiatrists, this collection offers a fascinating and accessible insight into mental illness through the pages of novels, poetry and autobiographies to be found in any bookshop.


Should be of interest to all psychiatrists (including trainees) - especially those with an interest in the humanities.

About the Editor:
Femi Oyebode is Professor and Head of Department of Psychiatry, University of Birmingham. He has published widely on the relationship between literature and psychiatry. His research interests include descriptive psychopathology and delusional misidentification syndromes. He is also a poet and literary critic.

See also: Madness at the Theatre

You may also be interested in the CPD Online module: Gender, madness and society in 20th century Britain


1. The benefits of reading literature - Allan Beveridge

2. Roles for literature in medical education - Martyn Evans

3. Autobiographical narrative and psychiatry - Femi Oyebode

4. Fictional narrative and psychiatry - Femi Oyebode

5. Poetry and psychiatry - Femi Oyebode

6. Letters and psychiatry: the case of Franz Kafka - Femi Oyebode

7. Death and dying in literature - John Skelton

8. Literary and biographical perspectives on substance use - Ed Day and Iain Smith

9. Dementia and literature - Christopher A. Vassilas

10. Portrayal of intellectual disability in fiction - Anupama Iyer

11. Autism in fiction and autobiography - Gordon Bates

“Medical humanities and narrative-based medicine are important and ever growing fields that the practicing psychiatrist is encouraged to embrace. Mindreadings explores themes as varied as how doctors can benefit from fictional accounts of mental illness, through what we can learn from different literary genres, to specific topics ranging from autism to addiction.
...The language is accessible and the text very readable...definitely rich and appealing enough to hold the attention of any interested reader. ...An invaluable lesson and a stimulating read.”
International Journal of Culture and Mental Health

"This interesting book provides abundant material to justify the reading of fiction as part of a psychiatrist’s lifelong learning...The authors show how literature helps us to see the world through the eyes of other people, to interpret their personal narrative and to enhance our sense of wonder."
British Journal of Psychiatry

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