Publication Date

April 2017


Charles Barber


College of Letters


English (United States)


"The Forbidden Genre: The Evolution of the Psychiatric Memoir and the Narrativity of Madness Pre- and Post-DSM" analyzes the relationship between the diagnostic vocabulary of mental illness, popular culture, and memoirs to understand how people with mental illnesses conceive of and communicate a suffering that is of the mind yet uniquely impeded by it. The project establishes a preliminary canon and critiques it, from the privileged backgrounds of the authors to narrative techniques, and poses multiple trajectories—from the ubiquitous celebrity comeback memoir to a well researched atlas that seeks to educate the public and even mobilize citizens towards political action. Looking at Clifford Beers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Menninger, William Styron, Susanna Kaysen, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Andy Behrman, Terrie Williams, Kay Redfield Jamison, Andrew Solomon, David Morris, and the TV shows The Sopranos and BoJack Horseman, the thesis takes a broad scope and encourages further scholarship in a nascent field that considers memoirs of madness as a genre: the psychiatric memoir.



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