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The Phenomenology of Hallucinatory and Psychotic Experience in Mid-Twentieth-Century Fiction

FOXWELL, JOHN,MAURICE,ROY (2018) The Phenomenology of Hallucinatory and Psychotic Experience in Mid-Twentieth-Century Fiction. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Both first-person and psychopathological accounts of hallucinations and psychosis tend to acknowledge a difficulty in expressing the phenomenology of such experiences. In particular, it would appear that these forms of experience involve a sense of ontological upheaval, in that they do not conform to the ordinary structure of the experience of the physical, consensual world. Within phenomenology and philosophy of mind, therefore, hallucinatory and psychotic experiences are often used to investigate the norms of our experience of ‘reality’.

This study is concerned with novels that take up the ‘linguistic challenge’ presented by hallucinatory and psychotic experience – in other words, novels that attempt to convey what such experience is like. Drawing on reader-response theory, cognitive narratology and cognitive stylistics, I suggest that these novels prompt the reader to imaginatively enact the forms of hallucinatory and psychotic experience through a distortion of the norms that govern the ordinary representation of lived experience. At the same time, these texts also use hallucinatory and psychotic experience in order to explore the nature of the interaction between reader and text, and, more broadly speaking, between subject and world.

Although the attempt to convey the experientiality of hallucinations and psychosis is not necessarily confined to the mid-Twentieth Century, this period does present something of a ‘clustering’ of novels which make this attempt through similar stylistic and narrative techniques. Taking William Golding’s Pincher Martin (1956), Muriel Spark’s The Comforters (1957), Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), and Doris Lessing’s Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) as case studies, I explore how these novels engage with conceptions of the mind and reality which emerged during this period, and are thus concerned with phenomenological issues which are still relevant to both cognitive narratology and philosophy of mind. Finally, I suggest that understanding these novels as being phenomenologically oriented can inform the critical debate on the literary history of the Twentieth Century.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Hallucinations, Psychopathology, Phenomenology, Cognitive Narratology, Reader-Response Theory, William Golding, Muriel Spark, Ken Kesey, Doris Lessing, Mid-Twentieth Century Fiction
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:17 Dec 2018 11:36

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