Mental Illness, Modernity and Now

The modernist period in literature saw a massive shift not only in the structural and generic elements of literature, but also in the thematic foci. One area that began to gain greater representation was the discussion of mental illness, especially through the lens of female authors. Great examples of this are Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway’, Janet Frame’s ‘Intensive Care’ and much more, Charlotte Gilman Perkins ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and more. We are almost 100 years on from these breaking edge works that helped shape a greater understanding of experiences of mental illness. The prompt I would suggest would be to look now at examples of contemporary fictional works that deal with mental illness and how those experiences and stories are creating new conversations.

  • I think this is a fantastic idea, and does a great job carrying through the tradition that found a strong expression in modernism. What also may be useful - at least in my opinion - would be to also venture beyond Freudian psychoanalysis that was en vogue during that time, and see rather the interconnection between contemporary psychology and literature. Maybe an obvious point, so forgive me if this doesn't help. But, given what we know about schizoaffective disorders and neurodivergences today, I would think many authors would touch on this. Is your focus mainly here on female authors? – KevinP 6 years ago

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