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Title: Anti-psychiatry and literature : a Laingian analysis of Balzac's Louis Lambert, Stendhal's Le Rouge et Le Noir, the Goncourts' Renée Mauperin, and Zola's L'Oeuvre
Author: Faulkner, Colin
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis centres on the intersection between four French nineteenth-century novels and the writings of the Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing, work which appeared in the 1960s and early 1970s and which has been given the label ‘anti-psychiatric’ because of its hostility to established psychiatric practices. The aims of this thesis are, firstly, to demonstrate that a congruence of concerns exists between the two domains in spite of the wide distance which may seem to separate them, and secondly, to argue the case for using Laingian anti-psychiatry as an analytical framework within which to examine the de-motivated turning point of each novel - for example why Julien Sorel attempts to kill Madame de Rênal in Le Rouge et le Noir or why Claude Lantier commits suicide in Zola’s L’Œuvre. In chapter one, I lay out the founding principles of the anti-psychiatry movement as well as its many shortcomings, focusing on the work of Laing and his involvement in the ill-fated anti-psychiatric therapeutic community at Kingsley Hall in London. I argue that although anti-psychiatric practice has today fallen into disrepute among mainstream psychiatric clinicians, in part because of the failings of Kingsley Hall, it nonetheless offers a fruitful if vastly under-utilised interpretative framework within which to analyse literary texts. In chapter two, I demonstrate the relevance of anti-psychiatric theory to the four novels under consideration by means of an analysis of the de-motivated turning point of each novel. I argue that the congruence of concerns shared by anti-psychiatry and the four novels centres on foregrounding notions of authenticity and on questioning received views of madness. I also outline in the conclusion to this chapter a series of questions which ask why the main protagonist of each novel, much like the schizophrenic as described by Laing, acts in a manner which is seemingly inexplicable and contrary to their self-interest, particularly at the moment in the text when it is least expected or least ‘vraisemblable’. In the third chapter, I review the approaches other critics have taken to these questions, enabling me to propose that there does indeed remain room for a Laingian anti-psychiatric approach.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available