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(level of social rejection) from the mentally ill depends on the causal attributions for mental illness as well as the level of contact respondents have with psychiatric patients. The survey questions focused on how willing participants would be to interact with psychiatric patients and their family members in a variety of social situations as well as the endorsement of negative stereotypes associated with mental illness.  The goals of my research are to explore the effects of social segregation based on mental health diagnoses and to identify some of the social conditions that stigma operates.

SESSION 11.

Cultural Studies in Madness, Identity and Citizenship

(Presented in collaboration with Gallery Gachet and the 2008 World Mad Pride Biennale, One Flew West: Old Landmarks, New Topographies)

Tim Keane. Comparative Literature Program, CUNY Graduate Center, New York, NY

Out of Ward Seven and Into the Mirror City:  Metaphors Beyond Normality in the Fiction of Janet Frame

Much madness is divinest sense…much sense the starkest madness, Emily Dickinson famously wrote. Since Dickinson’s time, Western creative artists have increasingly associated themselves with and/or been forcefully marginalized alongside the “mad.”  Yet post-structuralist thinkers (e.g., Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Michel DeCerteau) emphasize how critical understanding of narrative, reading and “heterlogical” qualities of language reveals a coercive politics and a misguided normalizing of the written word. Beginning with a quick overview of traditional theories about metaphor as “aberrant,” my talk focuses on the poetics of New Zealand novelist Janet Frame. Misdiagnosed as schizophrenic, Frame was incarcerated for seven years in mental institutions and saved from a leucotomy in part by the publication of her prize-winning book The Lagoon in 1951. Upon her release, and responding in part to her dehumanizing subjugation, Frame situated her fiction within the realist tradition in order to dismantle it. Her persistent use of poetry and metaphors to subvert linearity and sequence, her polysemous tropes of imagination and reality as “envoy” and “mirror city” in her memoir, and her allegorical re-readings of social institutions, manners and morality throughout her books represent one of the most thorough responses to the prevailing fictions of “normalcy” in the last fifty years. Citing representative texts, I will explore how Frame’s prose celebrates the essentially “deviant” and “surreal” qualities of language in order to dramatize what she saw as the irrefutable madness of conventional daily life in the mid-to-late twentieth century.

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