Mental Disorders Portrayed in Literature Analysis

The Issue

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Literature by and about the mentally ill aids understanding of the mind and society. Depictions of mental illness are like funhouse mirrors—scary, fascinating, and informative. One sees the normal psyche exaggerated and distorted, alien yet recognizable. This is one reason literature has always presented mental disorders. Moreover, some think that insanity and the genius that produces art are related; although this contention is debated, many great artists have had mental problems. What is rarer is people with mental problems who have also produced great art. Even inexperienced writers often produce powerful first-person accounts of mental disorders. Studying historical literature about mental disorders aids in understanding not only universals of the psyche but also specific societies’ views of mental disorders.