Literatures of Madness

Literatures of Madness: Disability Studies and Mental Health, Palgrave Macmillan, August 2018.


“New work on psychosocial disability is precisely what we need in literary disability studies, and Elizabeth Donaldson has put together a stunning lineup of essays in Literatures of Madness. This book will have you rethinking everything you thought you knew — about Shulamith Firestone, Sylvia Plath, Michelle Cliff, Louisa May Alcott, and maybe, who knows, even about disability itself.”

— Michael Bérubé, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature, Pennsylvania State University

“Mental disability is invoked everywhere today—in discussions of gun control, Presidential competence, celebrity outbursts. Finally we have a volume that gives thorough attention to the power that the literature of madness has over our lives—all our lives.”

–Catherine Prendergast, Guggenheim Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Elizabeth Donaldson’s collection, Literatures of Madness, represents a landmark contribution to madness and disability studies. With attention to historical constructions of madness based upon gender, ethnicity, class, and nationality, this collection considers these legacies through an impressive diversity of literary traditions and theoretical perspectives. From canonical feminist and lesbian fiction, to indigenous texts, to Caribbean and Indian novels, contributors develop innovative readings, grounded in knowledge of madness as a complex lived experience—as a source of community, a crucible of survival, and form of resistance. This is a path breaking anthology, a must-read for anyone interested in the complicated meanings of madness in contemporary thought.”

— Michelle Jarman, Associate Professor of Disability Studies at the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities

Table of Contents

1   Introduction: Breathing in Airless Spaces

Elizabeth J. Donaldson

Part I: Mad Community

2   Coming Out Mad, Coming Out Disabled”

Elizabeth Brewer

3   Going Barefoot: Mad Affiliation, Identity Politics, and Eros

PhebeAnn M. Wolframe

4   “Hundreds of People Like Me”: A Search for a Mad Community in The Bell Jar

Rose Miyatsu

5   Writing Madness in Indigenous Literature: A Hesitation

Erin Soros

Part II: Mad History

6   “Is the young lady mad?”: Psychiatric Disability in Louisa May Alcott’s Fiction

Karyn Valerius

7   The Snake Pit: Mary Jane Ward’s Asylum Fiction and Mental Health Advocacy

Elizabeth J. Donaldson

8   Alcoholic, Mad, Disabled: Constructing Lesbian Identity in Ann Bannon’s “Beebo Brinker Chronicles”

Tatiana Prorokova

9   Seeing Words, Hearing Voices: Hannah Weiner, Dora García, and the Poetic Performance of Radical Dis/Humanism

Andrew McEwan

Part III: Mad Survival

10   “My Difference Is Not My [Mental] Sickness”: Ethnicity and Erasure in Joanne Greenberg’s Jewish American Life Writing

Gail Berkeley Sherman

11   Resistance, Suffering, and Psychiatric Disability in Jerry Pinto’s Em and the Big Hoom and Amandeep Sandhu’s Sepia Leaves

Srikanth Mallavarapu

12   Mental Disability and Social Value in Michelle Cliff’s Abeng

Drew Holladay

13   It Doesn’t Add Up: Mental Illness in Paul Hornschemeier’s Mother Come Home

Jessica Gross