Madness and Literature
What Fiction Can Do for the Understanding of Mental Illness
Edited by Lasse R. Gammelgaard
Mental illness has been a favourite topic for authors throughout the history of literature, and, conversely, psychologists and psychiatrists like Sigmund Freud and Karl Jaspers have been interested in and influenced by literature. Pioneers within philosophy, psychiatry and literature share the endeavour to explore and explain the human mind and behaviour, including what a society deems as being outside perceived normality.
This volume engages with literature’s multifarious ways of probing minds and bodies in a state of ill mental health. To encompass this diversity, the theoretical approach is eclectic and transdisciplinary. The cases and the theory are in dialogue with a clinical approach, addressing issues and diagnoses such as trauma, psychosis, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, self-harm, hoarding disorder, PTSD and Digital Sexual Assault.
The volume has three parts. Chapters in Part I address literary representations of madness with a historical awareness, outlining the socio-political potentials of madness literature. Part II investigates how representations of mental illness can provide a different way of understanding what it is like to experience alternative states of mind, as well as how theoretical concepts from studies in literature can supplement the language of psychopathology. The chapters in Part III explore ways to apply literary cases in clinical practice.
Throughout the book, the contributors explore and explain how the language and discourses of literature (stylistically and theoretically) can teach us something new about what it means to be in ill mental health.
Lasse R. Gammelgaard is assistant professor at the Department of Communication and Culture at Aarhus University, Denmark. He obtained his PhD at Aarhus University in 2013 with a dissertation on narrative and poetry. He is co-director of the research group Health, Media and Narrative at Aarhus University. He is author of the high school textbook Galskab i litteraturen [Madness in Literature]. His articles appear in Narrative, Style, Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd'hui and Journal of Research in Sickness and Society among others.