Starting to speak : madness and the narration of identity
In this thesis I study the relationship between narrative and identity in the context of narrative representations of 'mental illness' or 'madness'. Through readings of autobiographical and fictional narrative texts, I consider how identity is textually figured, and how the disruptive effects of madness shape these figurations. I argue here for a view of psychological life as underpinned by textual and linguistic elements, and suggest that theoretical conceptions of 'narrative identity' should be reworked to account for the experience of vulnerable, marginalized subjects. In Chapter One I discuss the disruption of the sense of selfhood produced by madness; the difficulties of representing madness within a narrative form; and the ramifications of madness for 'narrative identity' as a theoretical position. In Chapter Two I discuss Lauren Slater's Spasm: A Memoir with Lies and Margiad Evans's A Ray of Darkness. Both texts relate experiences of epilepsy and depression, and, despite their very different style and tone, both propose dialogic and diffuse paradigms for autobiography. In Chapter Three I discuss Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation. I suggest that narration in this text is insinuated as a perilous venture, and that mapped within narrative form are the reverberations of unresolved distress. Chapter Four considers difficulties inherent in the narrative and linguistic representation of madness. I discuss Foucault and Derrida's debate on this subject, Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted, and Ross Burke's The Truth Effect. Chapter Five considers Alasdair Gray's novel 1982, Janine. I argue that this text dramatizes a particular type of story-telling, and demonstrates its importance for the well- being of the self. In Chapter Six I discuss two diaries. With reference to theory by Ricoeur and Foucault, I suggest that these apparently mundane narratives of everyday life represent profound refashionings of the self. Chapter Seven summarizes my conclusions and suggests directions for future work.