In The Golden Notebook (1962), The Four-Gated City (1969), and Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971), Doris Lessing examines the inadequacies of traditional models of madness and considers in their stead an antipsychiatric model championed by R. D. Laing. While ostensibly the three novels strive to conceive of madness in terms of Laing’s antipsychiatric thought, this article will argue that they in fact serve to reveal that Laing’s “lived body” (but gender-neutral) theory of schizophrenia failed to account for the discursively constructed, “inscribed” bodies of Lessing’s female characters. Lessing’s madness novels deconstruct Laing’s phallocentric approach to schizophrenia by rewriting his theory of madness as a gendered and embodied experience.
Doris Lessing, Antipsychiatry, and Bodies that Matter
Kerry Myler is senior lecturer in Contemporary Literature at Newman University, Birmingham, United Kingdom. She is an executive committee member of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association and a volume editor for the Literary Encyclopedia. Her research interests include postwar and contemporary women’s writing; women’s bodies, sexuality, and motherhood in literature and popular culture; and women and mental illness in literature.
Kerry Myler; Doris Lessing, Antipsychiatry, and Bodies that Matter. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 December 2019; 65 (4): 437–460. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-7995634
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