Not particularly literary (except insofar as adolescence is one of literature's great topics), but Terri Apter's piece on teenagers and resilience is well worth a look (she's reviewing a number of different books, Out of the Woods: Tales of Resilient Teens is the one discussed below--oh, and if you click through on that Amazon link, just scroll down and read a very funny parodic review by the pseudonymous viktor_57--in fact, click through from that onto the "See all my reviews" button and proceed from there if you want to see a truly obsessive & very funny project of the kind that the internet has made peculiarly accessible--in the nineteenth century you would have had a much smaller audience for this kind of joke....):
As sceptical developmental psychologists, Hauser and Allen would not ordinarily have set much store by a talking cure; but they came to recognize personal narrative as a resource and a tool, a way of grasping how people create and maintain meaning over time. They analysed the interviews of their sixteen subjects - the nine resilient ones and the seven in the contrast group - and noted how they talked about change, about relationships, and about their developing ideas of themselves. They found that those who were able to process difficult material had richer and smoother narratives. They came to realize that the significant questions to ask were: does a speaker stick to generalizations, or can she see nuance within a situation? Is a story flexible and inclusive, or closed and static? Does the speaker welcome opportunities for change, or resist them? Are relationships tolerated, recruited, or rejected as threats? Can a speaker focus on emotionally taxing experiences or does she respond with vagueness, avoidance, confusion or by changing the subject? Does the speaker see herself as a force in the plot line, or as a bystander?
While the stories of the contrast group were structurally simple, flat and disorganized, those of the resilient teenagers were complex, vivid and clear. The teens whose stories lacked complexity faded out when asked why they did something or when asked to describe what they generally do when things don't go well; their lack of emotional awareness was frustrating, and these teens had a tendency to foment trouble as a distraction from their failure to understand their difficulties. The resilient teens did not always begin with complex, broad or coherent narratives, but they could shift ground.
Also (I must take a look at the Dirda book) Sophie Ratcliffe is horrified by Jane Smiley's writing advice and enchanted by Michael Dirda's and Michael Holroyd bemoans the contemporary preference for Shakespeare over Shaw.
(One reason Holroyd's Shaw biography is so much more interesting than his Lytton Strachey one--which I must confess I have never quite managed to get through--is because Shaw must be one of the most interesting people who ever lived. I really love Shaw, in fact if the schedule ever permits me to teach anything outside the requisite-although-of-course-also-beloved eighteenth-century stuff I am going to press for an undergraduate seminar on Shaw and Stoppard. I've really got a thing for Stoppard--John Lahr's New Yorker piece on Stoppard's latest gave me a terrible pang, although he does not think it's a very good production I really wish I could go to London to see it--Stoppard is my absolute favorite, one of my top five theater experiences of all time was seeing my particularly most favorite Jumpers in London a long time ago with Paul Eddington and Felicity Kendal--I haven't found the New York productions of Stoppard very reliable, I fell completely in love with Arcadia in London and then dragged a friend to see it again in New York and it was awful, all embarrassing fake English accents and leaden pacing and sanctimonious "we are seeing a play that is good for us"-ness; and I didn't like the Housman one much either when I saw it on Broadway a few years ago. Postscript: strange to say, Vaclav Havel is going to be in residence at Columbia this fall. I wonder if there is any chance to meet him and actually have a conversation, or whether he will be hived off with ceremoniousness? Hmmm--must investigate....)