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Title: Mental disorder in the contemporary American biopic : representation and national identity
Author: Selway, Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0004 5990 4282
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis considers the representation of mental disorder in the contemporary American biopic from 1999 onwards, focussing upon how such representations of the biographical subject’s experience of mental illness can be read as interrogating many of the central features and ideologies of American national identity. Though long overlooked in academia, a recent surge in scholarly attention has repositioned and illuminated the biographical film (biopic) as a dynamic genre that warrants greater appreciation and investigation. This thesis contributes to current debates and understandings of the genre by critically interrogating the representational strategies and tropes present in depictions of mental disorder in the genre and contextualising these aspects in regards to wider cultural issues. Much like many critiques of the biopic genre, the portrayal of mental disorder in film and media has often been criticised for lacking authenticity or accuracy. Where critics and filmgoers bemoan the biopic’s over-celebratory nature and malleable relationship with history, so too psychiatric professionals and members of the public lament derogatory stereotypes and images of mental disorder that contribute to the perpetuation of stigma. However, this project realises a conscious move away from subjective debates concerning accuracy whilst still engaging with psychiatric research as a means of demonstrating the valuable interdisciplinary overlaps between psychiatry and film studies. Where critical considerations of mental illness representation largely focus upon the impact of film and media on cultural attitudes, the analyses in this thesis instead consider the influence of American culture on film representation. Whilst engaging with key ideas associated with the construction of national identity (primarily gender, race and class) this thesis also includes critical considerations of the portrayal of mental disorder and its intersections with many other socio-culturally significant aspects of American character and identity, including capitalism, sexuality, celebrity, religion and regionality.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available