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    Mad knowledge in the age of mad studies: on ‘psychosis’, writing and the possibility of interpretation

    Bristow, Alan (2020) Mad knowledge in the age of mad studies: on ‘psychosis’, writing and the possibility of interpretation. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    The figure of madness has long been positioned as the literary, poetic or philosophical ‘other’, functioning as a point of non-meaning that marks the boundaries of discourse, thought and culture. Despite this, the task of rendering meaning from madness, often via its written expression, has a long and rich history. From psychiatry through to psychoanalysis and forms of critical theory, ‘psychotic’ text has continually been utilised to further knowledge claims about what constitutes madness as well as to demarcate disciplinary interests. The contemporary field of ‘Mad Studies’ is the latest project to problematize the act of supplanting meaning onto individual experience and thereby co-opt these complex facets of the human condition into academic or professional frameworks. This thesis engages with this set of debates and asks whether the written expression of madness can ever be analysed without necessarily re-inscribing it within such systems of knowledge, thereby committing forms of ‘epistemic violence.’ Whilst very urgent concerns circulate regarding the proliferation of ‘mental illness’ in contemporary society as well as questions as to who is best placed to tackle this contested arena, this thesis holds that the task of rendering meaning from madness requires urgent revisiting in order to provide a epistemological basis from which very real political and ethical action can follow. The thesis is then divided into two parts. The first provides a survey of the ways in which examples of ‘mad writing’ have been repeatedly analysed to assist in the production of knowledge about ‘psychosis’ and, by implication, the social bond. The Memoirs of Daniel Paul Schreber is the main focus as the thesis moves from the psychoanalytic readings of Freud and Lacan, through to the positioning of Schreber as an arch modernist before engaging in the schizoanalytic project of Deleuze and Guattari. The second part of this thesis engages with a body of ‘mad writing’ produced by celebrated science fiction author, Philip, K. Dick. By demonstrating how PKD’s Exegesis can be read at the level of ‘psychosis’ whilst at the same time providing insight on PKD’s specific socio-cultural moment, this thesis constructs a method for analysing mad writing that challenges reductive or pathologising reasoning that ultimately serves to ‘other’ madness. It does so by offering a psychosocial reading, and an associated understanding of ‘psychosis’ as being key to moving beyond restrictive debates within Mad Studies type literature.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2021 15:52
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:31


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