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How Can I Speak of Madness? Narrative and Identity in Memoirs of ‘Mental Illness’

By Brendan Stone

Abstract

In this paper I examine some of the implications, possibilities, and dangers of\ud addressing the experience of ‘madness’ or ‘mental illness’1 within\ud autobiographical narrative: in particular, I ask how madness can be narrated, or\ud spoken. I suggest that an attentive reading of narrative form, as the outworking\ud and evidence of a way of knowing and thinking about the world, may reveal\ud authorial attempts to manage and stretch the constraints inherent in\ud conventional narrative’s tendency toward linearity and resolution, a tendency\ud which is, arguably, inimical to the expression of madness. Insinuated in this\ud process of working with form is a particular narrative mode of existence which\ud has implications for the psychodynamics of living with mental distress. With\ud reference to the work of Sarah Kofman, I propose the idea that a ‘writing\ud without power’ may be a salutary way to address chronic distress, and to\ud reformulate identity in the light of biographical disruption

Topics: H1, BF
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
Year: 2004
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:4973

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Citations

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