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Narratives of the Self

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Edited By Pawel Schreiber and Joanna Malicka

This book explores the many interdependencies and crossovers between living and writing, or, in more specific terms, between writers’ lives on the one hand and their literary output on the other. Thematically divided into four major parts, the book focuses on different literary concerns and discusses literary works from the 17 th century to the present day. The first part approaches the issue of autobiography and biography, the second part takes a close look at travel writing, while the third discusses various lives in fiction and the fourth deals with confessional writing.
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Two Accounts of One Life: Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted and Madness in Close-up

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Women’s madness narratives, or autobiographic accounts of struggle with mental illness, as well as texts dealing with treatment and recovery, are becoming increasingly popular. Their popularity can be explained by the growing discrepancy between scientific biomedical discourse and the individual experience of illness. The former looks at madness as a brain disease caused by faulty neurotransmitters functioning and overlooks such factors as gender, ethnicity, social class and individual experience. Indeed, if mental illness is programmed in our genes and can be successfully remedied by medication, there is no need to look at the life experience of the patient. However, since most people do not like to have their thoughts and feelings explained by biological determinism of sheer amino acid sequencing, and do not share the doctors’ and pharmacologists’ enthusiasm about drugs, madness narratives proliferate as they offer an alternative viewpoint. Many of them address the issue of identity and its relationship to psychiatric diagnosing.

Attitude to one’s illness, realising one’s problems are of psychiatric nature or not, accepting or rejecting the diagnosis and treatment are crucial issues in the construction of identity. As Mark Vonnegut observed in his preface to Eden Express. My Memoir of Insanity:

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