Studies in Literary Theory
Modernism, Madness, Mental Illness
In this seminar, we’ll study the relationship between literature and modern discourses on psychopathology. We’ll ask how literature informs and inspires psychoanalysis, schizoanalysis, and psychiatry. But, conversely, we'll also ask how these clinical practices alter the production and reception of literature. How do modernist and later writers respond to the claims of clinical knowledge, whether to borrow from, channel, suspend, complicate, contest, or refuse them? What happens to literature when “madness,” long regarded as familiar terrain for poets, playwrights, and novelists, gives way to “mental illness”? What role does the aesthetic play in the emergence of radical psychiatry, as in the work of Fanon, Tosquelles, Basaglia, and Guattari? What was antipsychiatry, and what, if anything, did literature have to do with it?
As we work to address these questions, we will focus on the psychoses rather than on the forms of neurotic suffering that Freud saw as amenable to psychoanalytic treatment or on the “ordinary unhappiness” that he thought could come, at the best of times, after a course of analysis. We'll read several rejoinders to Freud written by clinicians (from Lacan to Davoine and Gaudillière) who argue for the use of psychoanalysis to treat psychotic symptoms. We’ll also study recent critical returns to the psychosocial and consider the status of categories like “paranoia” and “deviance” in ongoing debates in literary studies (from Sedgwick to Love). Literary examples will range from Surrealist experiments to works by Beckett, Darío, Eltit, Head, Joyce, Lessing, Rivera Garza, Rosselli, and Weiss, among others.