Understanding the value of the arts in the education of mental health professionals: Georg Lukács, Samuel Beckett and the aesthetic category of specific particularity

Authors


M. Roberts, 12 Sadler Road, Brownhills, Walsall, West Midlands WS8 6BG, UK, E-mail: marcwarenroberts@aol.com

Abstract

Accessible summary

  • • The manner in which the arts can contribute and enhance the practical, therapeutic concerns of mental health professionals is becoming well established in the health care literature.
  • • The aesthetic theory of the Hungarian philosopher Georg Lukács and, in particular, his concept of specific particularity presents the possibility of understanding how the arts can be employed as a rich educational resource.
  • • As an educational resource, the arts can be understood as providing mental health professionals with a valuable opportunity to reflect upon, consider and develop their ‘emotional capabilities’, such as the ability to move towards empathic understanding of those receiving mental health care.

Abstract

The manner in which the arts can enhance the practical, therapeutic concerns of mental health professionals is becoming well established in the health care literature. What gets discussed less frequently, however, are those aesthetic frameworks that propose to give an account of the possible ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ of art. In response, this paper will elucidate the aesthetic theory of the Hungarian philosopher Georg Lukács and will suggest that his concept of specific particularity enables an understanding of how art, and literature, poetry and drama in particular, can be employed as an educational resource that can contribute to the development of the ‘emotional capabilities’ of practitioners. However, insofar as Lukács' works are philosophically complex and challenging, his concept of specific particularity will be discussed within the context of Samuel Beckett's dramatic work Ohio Impromptu. In doing so, it will be suggested that Ohio Impromptu is not only productive for the elucidation of Lukács' aesthetics, but also illustrates how the arts provides practitioners with a valuable educative opportunity to engage with, and critically reflect upon, a multiplicity of affective dimensions, thereby enhancing the practitioner's ability to move towards achieving an empathic understanding of, and ‘emotional resonance’ with, those receiving mental health care.

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