Rebecca Reich F'09

Rebecca  Reich
University of Cambridge, UK

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2009
Doctoral Candidate
Slavic Languages and Literatures
Harvard University
Methods of Madness: Diagnosis and Self-Definition in Late Soviet Literature

This dissertation investigates psychiatric and literary conceptions of creativity and insanity in the Soviet Union from the 1950s to the 1980s. The period stands out not only for the ongoing preoccupation with madness as a literary theme, but also for the hospitalization of dissidents and nonconformists, many of them writers. These phenomena were related in that psychiatry and literature drew on common cultural notions of madness, and in turn influenced each other. This study revises historical accounts of the politicization of Soviet psychiatry by situating them within a wider cultural context. The ways in which writers depicted and deployed madness offer a model for understanding how creative individuals work within established social categories to define themselves in their own terms.