Mad Intertextuality

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Monika Kaup

Mad Intertextuality. Madness in Twentieth-Century Women's Writing

ISBN 978-3-88476-057-4, ISBN 3-88476-057-2, 280 S., kt., € 25,00 (1993)

(Horizonte - Studien zu Texten und Ideen der europäischen Moderne, Bd. 12)

It is difficult to imagine texts more different than Djuna Barnes' Nightwood and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. Yet they both deal with madness, the female malady, as do a large number of texts by women authors in the 20th century from modernism to the present. Women's continuing interest in insanity derives from their insight into cultural associations of femininity with irrationality so prevalent in Western thought. Confronted with representations of madness as feminine in psychiatry, psychoanalysis, philosophy, and male-authored literature, 20th-century women writers have responded by authorizing female voices speaking about the madwoman, thereby re-positioning her from margin to center status. In the process, they have deconstructed and rewritten male-authored plots of female madness from diverse positions in a network of texts extending across periods and national literatures.

This study is based on the notion of women's "mad intertextuality", both to challenge a single universal approach to the complex field of writings, and to suggest trans-textual continuities between literature, feminist theory, and women's work in other disciplines. It includes chapters on historical developments in part one and chapters presenting synchronic approaches (autobiography, the difference of race, and the significance of space) in the second part.