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Towards a Writing without Power: Notes on the Narration of Madness

Stone, Brendan (2004) Towards a Writing without Power: Notes on the Narration of Madness. Auto/Biography , 2004 (12). pp. 16-33. ISSN 0967-5507

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In this paper I consider some of the implications, possibilities and dangers of addressing the experience of ‘madness’ or ‘mental illness’ within autobiographical narrative: in particular, I ask how madness can be narrated, or spoken. Engaging with theoretical interventions by, amongst others, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Shoshana Felman and Maurice Blanchot, and looking at three autobiographies of madness, I suggest that an attentive reading of narrative form,as the outworking and evidence of a way of knowing and thinking about the world, may reveal authorial attempts to manage and stretch the constraints inherent in conventional narrative’s tendency toward linearity and resolution. This tendency, I argue, is inimical to the expression of madness. Insinuated in this process of working with form is a particular narrative mode of existence, which has implications for the psychodynamics of living with mental distress. With reference to the work of Sarah Kofman on the representation of trauma, I propose that her conception of a ‘writing without power’ may be a salutary way in which to address chronic distress, and to reformulate identity in the light of biographical disruption.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: narrative, trauma, madness, ethics, mental illness, autobiography
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics (Sheffield) > Department of English Literature (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Brendan Stone
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2010 18:03
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2010 18:03
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0967550704ab002oa
Status: Published
Publisher: Arnold
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1191/0967550704ab002oa
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10318

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