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Psychoanalysis, psychiatry and modernist literature


Psychic distress has fascinated artists for centuries, but during the modernist era two developments began to change the ways madness was represented as 'otherness' or liberation. The professions of the mental sciences consolidated and began to take the shape of contemporary biomedical psychiatry, and psychoanalysis emerged as a controversial, powerful therapeutic system and narrative of the self. Modernist literature was influenced by these new scientific languages, and was itself important in the formation of the modern, psychological subject. Each of these discourses reveal compelling questions about the experience of distress, and how distress is formed or transformed by language. Presenting detailed readings of both canonical modernists including Virginia Woolf, and lesser known authors such as Emily Holmes Coleman, as well as analysis of psychiatric and psychoanalytic institutions, this book argues that modernist madness emerges from science and art, and can be heard in the voices of the distressed as well as those treating them.