“I expected to be entertained , not healed”… OUTLANDER AND READER RESPONSE

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My readers have graciously requested that I continue to write during “Droughtlander the Sequel”. Admittedly, I was a bit worried about that. I wondered what I would write about after the show was over! Oh, I of little faith, the fan-dom has given me plenty of fodder! They are constantly saying or doing something that inspires me to think and then write.  For instance, Diana Gabaldon recently posted a favorite fan comment of the day.

FAVORITE READER COMMENT OF THE DAY:

“Outlander was thrust upon me by a very insistent long time fan. I expected to be entertained, not healed.”

–Beth B.

My response to this was “Awwwww”

Other readers? Not so much…

See what I mean? Plenty of inspiration fodder!

When I went to college, I was already an adult with 28 yrs of life experience. My husband gave me a little insight into what college was likely to be like for someone such as myself, “You’ll be like a sponge . You’ll love every minute.  The professors will love you and the kids will hate you for making them look bad! “. He was pretty prophetic.  I did love every minute and the kids tended to roll their eyes at me and my eagerly raised hand. I wanted to discuss and share! They wanted to pass the class with as little effort as possible and I was making them look bad. However, after a long night partying and a short night studying, some of my fellow students saw me as a valuable commodity,”Let’s ask Beth what the reading was about”.  I may have gotten my fellow students out of a sticky situation temporarily, but I always felt they were missing the point…reading was life changing.  At least, I felt so.

One of the things I learned while earning my English degree was a theory called Reader Response. In a nutshell, the theory proposes the idea that no two readers have the same reading experience because no two people are the same.  We come to a book or movie for that matter with everything we’ve read and seen and all of our life-experiences. In addition, we often come to a reading from different places in our life’s journey. Some may read a piece of literature as an 18 yr old virgin others as a 40 something well “seasoned’ individual. Some may come to a book having just experienced a most meaningful moment of human bonding. Another reader may have just experienced a devastating loss. The theory proposes that all of these things affect our response to what we read. We all make meaning and then incorporate what we’ve learned from what we read to suit our individual needs and experience. What moves me may not move you and vice versa. We react to what we read and it becomes part of us.  It makes sense and I have seen nothing since that refutes that theory.  In fact, we now have some brain science to back its validity!

Author Hilary Freeman was intrigued by the benefits of reading and wrote the article “Getting Lost in a Good Book Can Keep You Healthy”.

…there’s increasing evidence that reading for pleasure isn’t just another leisure pursuit, or merely a way of improving literacy skills and factual knowledge….It might actually be good for our mental and physical health too.”

She cites the findings of several studies and quotes neuroscientists in her article.  She concludes that reading for pleasure has both mental and physical benefits. It helps us think more clearly, enriches our relationships and can even increase our empathy.  One of the more interesting things I read in this article was a quote from John Stein, emeritus professor of neuroscience at Magdalen College, Oxford.

‘When we “get lost” in a good book, we’re doing more than simply following a story. Imagining what’s happening is as good at activating the brain as “doing” it.’

Recent brain scan studies show that when we read the same areas of the brain, “that are used to process these experiences in real life are activated, creating new neural pathways”.  So, when we read it is as if we are experiencing it ourselves.  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2193496/Getting-lost-good-book-help-healthy.html#ixzz3cZZ0UZgR

Reading helps us to experience things we may never have the chance to in real life.  And, these studies are indicating that people are inspired to make changes in their own lives as a result. In the article,  If You Didn’t Love Reading Before You See This, You’ll Love It After  by Sarah White,  the author says that  studies show that reading fiction,

“…teaches you to be human…helps you see other people’s perspectives. A good book is the closest we can get to being in another person’s skin, and it can help us understand the real people in our lives a little better. …Reading can give you a new perspective. Here I’m not just talking about getting to peer into different worlds, but the fact that reading about life situations similar to your own may give you a different perspective on things. Whether you need help navigating a breakup or dealing with your parents, there’s a book for that.”

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/20-reasons-read-that-will-change-your-life.html

So, it would appear that books have the potential to heal as Diana’s reader suggested. When we get lost in a book, studies have shown that we might actually change our own behaviour and thoughts to match that of the character.  It is a phenomenon that researchers are calling “experience-taking”. They found that “experience-taking’ can lead to real-life changes. Strongly identifying with a character who overcomes can lead to over-coming!

I’m sure, I’m not the only one who has found this to be true in their own lives.  Like Diana’s reader who found herself surprised to be healed by Ms. Gabaldon’s story of Jamie and Claire and all the other myriad characters she has work through all of life’s challenges and ironies, I too have been changed by books. The Box Car Children and Queenie Peavy helped to shape the child I became.  Corrie ten Boom and The Hiding Place taught me about faith and what it means to care for others and …

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Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series has helped to enrich my relationships with those I love. So, can a book heal? I’m gonna vote yes and feel sorry for those whose worlds and experiences are limited by a life without fiction.