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Representations of madness in Indo-Caribbean literature

By Letizia Gramaglia


This thesis presents a critical reading of selected Indo-Caribbean prose and poetry and explores their shared concern with issues of madness and insanity. Before approaching literary texts, however, the thesis investigates the colonial treatment of mental illness in Trinidad and British Guiana in order to establish a pragmatic link between the East Indians’ experience of mental illness during indentureship and its later emergence in literature. The study of the development of local colonial psychiatry is based on the examination of original sources, including relevant Parliamentary Papers and previously unexamined material. A critical reading of\ud Edward Jenkins’s writings provides the link between history and literature, whilst contemporary theories on the construction of the collective imaginary help to sustain\ud the argument of a transference of the trope of madness from facts to fiction, from reality to imagination.\ud \ud This project contributes both to the growing field of Indo-Caribbean literary criticism and to the embryonic area of the history of mental health in the Caribbean.\ud Concentrating on the relation between the social history of medicine and literary imagination it suggests a new approach to Indo-Caribbean literature based on the\ud close relationship between health and culture

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