By Hilary Clark
How the tale of melancholy will get advised in print, on monitor, and on-line.
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Extra info for Depression and Narrative: Telling the Dark
3. Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe, 183–84 (emphases added). 4. Trosse, Life of the Reverend Mr. George Trosse, 30 (emphasis added). 5. , 32 (emphasis added). 6. Interestingly, although Freud’s work on the unconscious was still half a century away, this account seems to anticipate the belief in unconscious mental states framing some twentieth-century narratives. 7. Perceval, A Narrative of the Treatment Experienced by a Gentleman, 253. 8. Quoted in McGhie and Chapman, “Disorders of Attention and Perception in Early Schizophrenia,” 109 (emphasis added).
In emphasizing the importance of a person’s perceptions of mental illness, I agree with Dwight Fee, who asserts that depression (and by extension, other mood disorders) is not only a biological and psychological phenomenon, but is also a “discursive project,” “a reflexive process of self-definition and identity construction . . ”9 In their autobiographies, both Millett and Jamison attempt to interpret their experience of bipolar disorder—or, in the case of Millett, the accusation of it. ) Their constructions of this disorder are multifaceted, but I’d like to focus on the language each writer uses to characterize her struggle with the concept of mental illness.
By the modern era different conceptual possibilities suggest themselves, and other ideas and assumptions—including some sense of the proprietary self as owner of and constituted by the totality of its experiences and corporeal states— seem to have gained salience. This more recent conception emerges in John Perceval’s 1838 memoir, written after a year in a private madhouse that followed upon an episode of severe disturbance. Perceval looks back on earlier states of hallucination and delusion and judges them to have resulted from a “natural but often erroneous .