ISSUE Reading Shakespeare, Wordsworth may be better therapy than self-help books
Reading works of great writers such as Shakespeare and Wordsworth in English can boost morale and provide better therapy than a self-help guide, a study has found.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool found the prose of great writers had a beneficial effect on the mind, and provided a boost to morale by catching the reader’s attention and triggering moments of self-reflection.
The experts used scanners to monitor brain activity of 30 volunteers as they read pieces of classical English literature both in their original form and in a modern translation.
The experiment showed the more challenging prose and poetry set off far more electrical activity in the brain than translated versions.
Experts studied the brain activity as readers responded to each word, and noticed how the brain “lit up” as the readers encountered unusual words.
The research also found poetry increased activity in the right hemisphere of the brain, an area concerned with “autobiographical memory”.
It helped readers reflect on and reappraise their own experiences in light of what they had read.
The academics said this meant the classics were more useful than self-help books.
The experts used works of Wordsworth, Henry Vaughan, John Donne, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes.