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Malevolent, mad or merely human : representations of the 'psy' professional in English, American and Irish fiction

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  • Additional Information
    • Contributors:
      Oyebode, F.; Funke, J.
    • Publication Information:
      University of Exeter, 2020.
    • Publication Date:
      2020
    • Collection:
      University of Exeter
    • Abstract:
      This work draws attention to the widespread, damaging, cultural depictions of psychiatrists and allied (or ‘psy’) professionals. I first explore the frequent presence of these specialists in such artefacts as horror fiction, literary novels, detective fiction, movies, comics with their related films and video games, asylum-based entertainments and cartoons. Close analysis of four representative novels will form the main body of this thesis, each fiction being set in a significant stage within the relevant historical treatment of the mad between 1946 and 2008. In this way, I shall demonstrate how fear and distrust of ‘psy’ professionals pervades anglophone fiction. I shall show how the overwhelming number of negative portrayals greatly outweighs positive depictions. I suggest this can lead to a problematic response to the ‘psy’ professions from prospective and current patients and the general population. Broad internet searches of patients’ reactions will show that fear of seeing a psychiatrist is a common reaction. I shall consider the widespread concern, evidenced in scholarly journals, among ‘psy’ professionals about the negative perception of their role and work, noting that distrust and denigration of ‘psy’ practitioners is also apparent among medical colleagues and students, with a resulting problem of low recruitment to this specialty. I shall suggest that the roots of this suspicion lie in the pervasive cultural fear of madness, Anti-Semitism and the persistent notion that psychiatry and allied professions are pseudo-scientific, unlike other medical disciplines. Using historical examples, I shall demonstrate that the ‘psy’ professions are tainted by historical treatment failures and rogue professionals in ways that do not occur elsewhere in medicine. While ‘psy’ professionals are generally less transparent (for reasons including confidentiality) than other medical specialists, they face vociferous criticism from within their own ranks, especially on the internet. This thesis will promote an understanding of the injurious negative place ‘psy’ professionals hold in our culture.
    • Accession Number:
      edsble.818733