Hampton, Bryan; Rehyansky, Katherine
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Place of Publication
When R.D. Laing wrote The Divided Self in 1960, his goal was “to make madness, and the process of going mad, comprehensible.” Laing argued that psychosis was, at its core, an existential problem, driven by a sense of disconnection from the world and in turn, a fragmentation of the self. This thesis uses Laing’s theory of “the divided self” as a framework for examining how madness is constructed in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (1890), Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (1963), and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962). Each of these works offers a unique portrait of the “divided self” that both builds upon and enriches the understanding of Laing’s theory and uses that “divided self” to highlight the greater themes of the works. These narratives not only illuminate the complicated nature of madness and psychosis but also the ways that society and the larger world contribute to these conditions, particularly in the case of women. By analyzing the ways that Laing’s theory of the “divided self” functions within the texts of Gilman, Plath, and Jackson, I aim in this thesis to highlight the ability of each of these texts to confront issues of gender, social roles, and mental health while also unpacking the unique intricacies and implications of female madness in the early to mid-twentieth century.
B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.
Laing, R. D. -- (Ronald David), -- 1927-1989; Plath, Sylvia -- Criticism and interpretation; Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, -- 1860-1935 -- Criticism and interpretation; Jackson, Shirley, -- 1916-1965 -- Criticism and interpretation
English Language and Literature
Sweat, Katherine, "Madness as "The Divided Self" in the works of American female authors" (2018). Honors Theses.