Critiquing Psychiatry, Narrating Trauma: Madness in Twentieth- Century North American Literature and Film

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Critiquing Psychiatry, Narrating Trauma: Madness in Twentieth-
Century North American Literature and Film, Is A Well-Researched Topic, It Is To Be Used As A Guide Or Framework For Your Research.

Abstract

This dissertation explores representations of trauma and mental distress in twentieth-century novels and films. Drawn on research that emphasizes the ways that marginalized communities—in particular women-coded, racialized, and Indigenous persons—have historically been pathologized, the thesis considers how select novels and films query biomedical approaches to mental illness and critique psychiatric contexts, which prioritize social control more than they provide substantive and humane forms of support and care. How might representations of trauma and mental distress be understood without confirming regimes of psy-authority or psy-power? The thesis takes up this core issue by building on theories drawn from Mad Studies, illuminating the ways in which mental strain and political dissent—which respectively arise from and respond to racialized and gendered forms of oppressions—are in these fictional works, pathologized as individual biomedical illnesses. Through close readings of these works, the thesis contends that a psychiatric framework, in effect, obscures the underlying traumatic causes of “madness,” trivializes mental strain, neutralizes dissent, and perpetuates injustice. In my analysis, I also bring to light alternative ways of interpreting supposed symptoms of mental illness in fiction, which, I contend, can be seen as creative coping mechanisms or responses to racialized forms of trauma, which are often linked to gender-based violence and rooted in systemic inequalities. The first two chapters centre gendered and racialized diagnostic practices in post-WWII psychiatry, focusing on shell shock in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, John Okada’s No-No Boy, and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and multiple personality in two films—Three Faces of Eve and Frankie & Alice. These chapters take up how normative prescriptions of sanity during the post-WWII period are defined according to whiteness, colonial masculinity, idealized notions of femininity, and heteronormativity. The second part of the dissertation examines texts in which psychiatric diagnoses pathologize political resistance as a biomedical mental illness to thwart critiques of social inequalities. I consider the significance of schizophrenia in the 1960s context of the U.S. Black Power movement, focusing on Virginia Hamilton’s The Planet of Junior Brown and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. In the final chapter, I turn to how sanist discourses unfold in the transnational context of the global War on Terror, as taken up in Rawi Hage’s novel, Cockroach. Here, I consider how this context extends and updates the white male paranoia endemic of Cold War novels for an era marked by terrorism—a threat projected on brown men. Ironically, a nationalist paranoid discourse deems brown men to be paranoid. Through close reading, the dissertation explains how select novels and films provide a means of countering and critiquing normalizing what Mad Studies describes as “sanist” discourses. Ultimately, the thesis illuminates how these works reimagine care and mental health, long mired in heteronormative white patriarchy, to better align with social justice aims of anti-racism, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, and anti-misogyny.

Table of Contents

Abstract…………………………………………………….…………………….………………. ii Summary for Lay Audience……………………………………………………………………… iv Acknowledgements………………………………………………………………………………. v Table of Contents.………….…………………………………………………………………… vii List of Figures.……….…………………………………………………….……………………. ix Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………. 1
Chapter 1 War Wounds Untreated: WWII Veterans and the Failures of Trauma Theory in Invisible Man, No-No Boy, and Ceremony……………………………………………………… 27
Shell Shock and Masculinity ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 36
VA Institutional Spaces, WWII Psychiatric Discourse, and White Supremacy ………………….. 48
Trauma, Self-Medication, and Alcohol Dependency ………………………………………………………. 61
Rethinking Damaged-Centered Approach …………………………………………………………………….. 73
Chapter 2 Multiplicity, Femininity, Race, and Recovery in Three Faces of Eve and Frankie & Alice ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 80
“In effect she’s now two different women”: Jezebels, Prudes, and the Modern Woman ……… 90
“Do you think my mama killed her?”: Monstrous Mothers, Infanticide, and Multiplicity….. 123
Chapter 3 Seeing and Believing Otherwise: Fantasy in The Bluest Eye and The Planet of Junior Brown ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 141
Ugliness and Fatness Coded as Blackness …………………………………………………………………… 147
The Pathologization of Black Adolescent Trauma ……………………………………………………….. 158
Imaginary Friends and Black Speculative Fiction ………………………………………………………… 167
Chapter 4 “Only the paranoid survive, my friend”: Paranoia and Xenophobic Racism in Cockroach ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 180
“I was the insect beneath them”: Cockroaches and Colonialism …………………………………….. 188
Paranoid Nationalism and Refugee Conspiracy Theories ………………………………………………. 196
Psychiatry, Biomedicalism, and Conspiracy ………………………………………………………………… 211

Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………. 221 Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………………… 228 Curriculum Vitae……………………………………………………………………………… 257

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YourPastQuestions Brand

Additional information

Author

Sarah Blanchette

No of Chapters

4

No of Pages

268

Reference

YES

Format

PDF

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