Anne-Fleur van der Meer, PhD-student, neemt van 9 tot en met 11 juli 2013 deel aan een internationaal congres te Liverpool (UK) getiteld “Melancholy Minds and Painful Bodies: Genealogy, Geography, Pathogeny”. In het congresprogramma is de volgende samenvatting van haar presentatie opgenomen:
Negotiating Mental Illness in the Era of the Brain; On Depression and Neurobiology in Contemporary Literature and Culture
The World Health Organization (WHO) regards depression as among the leading causes of disability. It currently affects about 121 million people worldwide. Although The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has provide a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mood disorders, the nature of depression as well as its impact and consequences have been considered and debated intensively in various domains, such as science, politics, philosophy, and journalism. One of the major issues over the last decades has been the increased neurobiological understanding of mental illness. Developments in i.e. pharmaceutical industry and technology (visualization techniques as PET for instance) seem to legitimize the idea that suffering should be approached problem-oriented (and less person-oriented), and treated with pharmacology or other brain interventions.
This paper reflects on discussions about the fundamental (philosophical, ethical and practical) implications of the popular biochemical approach, for both the individual patients and the place of mental suffering in culture. (Andreasen 2001, Berrios 1996, Conrad 2010, Koolschijn 2009, Walker 2007) Depression is also a frequent theme in contemporary literature. By means of a close reading of a representative corpus of (Western) novels and autobiographies, the paper will display how literature communicates and negotiates values and meanings related to mental suffering in the decade of neurobiological progress (Bal 2009, Herman and Vervaeck 2005, Allan 2000). The paper is based on the idea that narratives form a place where ideas and values are actively created, constituted, and mobilized.
Narratives do not simply mirror reality and culture; they are a productive and constructive ‘force’within it because they apply ‘worth and value’ to the issues they represent (Beer 1996, Greenblatt 1990). By analyzing the strategies used to represent depression, the paper aims to show how the works contribute to debates on depression and neurobiology in today’s culture.