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Title:Neurotic Nationalism: The "American Disease" in American Modernist Literature
Author(s):Campbell, Brad
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Maxwell, William J.
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:This dissertation investigates and, through significant archival research, historicizes the largely unexamined preoccupation with mental illness in modern American literature and culture. By bringing into dialogue two disciplines which rarely seem to speak to each other---American modernist literary criticism and the history of psychiatry---my dissertation offers scholars of American culture a new way to think about and theorize this period's marked interest in neurosis by connecting it to the debates over national identity which found new urgency in the early twentieth century and a new energy in its literature. Arguing that neurosis is less the successor of than a semantic substitute for the late nineteenth century's "neurasthenia," I show how dominant constructions of the disease in the twentieth century are predicated upon a neurasthenic logic which coordinated American identity with the complex, "civilized" neuroses that were supposed to be the exclusive province of the white and privileged. Accordingly, much was at stake in twentieth-century representations of neurosis, and my dissertation closely reads these instances in modernist dramatic landmarks like Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones, Harlem Renaissance novels by Jessie Fauset and Wallace Thurman, and African-American epics like Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. By examining these texts alongside the medical documents, psychoanalytic tracts, and eugenicist diatribes that shaped and were shaped by them, this dissertation shows precisely how twentieth-century literary representations of neurosis participated in a remaking of America, sometimes endorsing the assumptions of neurasthenic logic, at other times resisting and reconfiguring them.
Issue Date:2007
Description:224 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3269851
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:2007

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