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Re/construction of self: Discourse, and the myth of the return analyzing the narratives of seven women diagnosed with schizophrenia

Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Psychiatry underwent a significant transformation from 1945 to 1965, particularly with respect to techniques and practices for patients with schizophrenia. My dissertation offers evidence of this transformation in autobiographical narratives written by women diagnosed with schizophrenia published during this time that references psychiatric language in the patients' narratives of becoming, stories of their renewed self or return to their former state of normalcy. By analyzing these autobiographical texts in the historical context of these two decades, which included the widespread adoption of psychoanalytic theory in the late 1940s, the rise of the anti-psychiatry movement, and the introduction of anti-psychotics into the asylums, overlapping and intersecting spheres of influence in the field of psychiatry can be seen to inform the autobiographers' efforts to re/build their sense of self. The socio-political and theoretical works of Erving Goffman, Michel Foucault, and Sigmund Freud serve as a foundation for this work. Vladimir Propp's study of the folktale form and structure, and the mythological motif of "the return" in particular, complements the work of these three figures and can consistently be seen in the architecture of narratives written by schizophrenics. These autobiographical schizophrenic narratives construct the authors as a third persona generated in the act of writing a "fabricated self." The writing process is therefore not a cure, but a desire to return to their family, their community, and ultimately to a normal state they believe existed prior to diagnosis.
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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: McCarron, Gary
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