Madness in Post-War US Writing

Powerful Essays
DEPERNE Chloé December 2013
Registration no: 13039441
Module code: EL0505
Module name: Post-war U.S. writing

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” (Howl, Allen Ginsberg). Why is madness an important theme in post-war U.S. writing? Your answer should demonstrate thorough knowledge of at least two texts studied on this module.

Madness, according to the English Oxford Dictionary, can be defined as “the state of having a serious mental illness”; “a state of wild or chaotic activity”, or having an “extremely foolish behaviour”. Madness in literature may refer to writers who are known for having mental troubles, but might also refer to the fictional characters who are taking place in the writer’s story. It can also be seen as a psychological book; a book talking about the study of madness with a psychological approach. Here this essay will be focusing on the first definition of madness in literature, using the context of the post-war period in the United States. It will first demonstrate that madness is an important theme in literature at this time because it comes from the suffering of the writers; to eventually show that madness is a weapon for the author to denounce the society, and that madness cannot only be seen as a mental problem, because one can consider that madness and genius are intertwined. These two parts of argumentation will be demonstrated through the analysis of Allan Ginsberg’s and Robert Lowell’s writings.

First of all, one can say that madness is an important theme in post-war U.S. writing because when the author decides to write about it, it is mainly due to the fact that madness is present in his life. Mental illness is usually in creative people themselves or in...

... middle of paper ...

Baker, C. Crawford, P. Brown, B. J. Lipsedge, M. and Carter, R. Madness in Post-1945 British and American Fiction (Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan 2010)
Ginsberg, A. Selected Poems 1947-1995 (London: Penguin 2011)
Kerouac, J. "Aftermath: The Philosophy of the Beat Generation" Esquire magazine (March 1958)
Lindsberg, G. The Confidence Man in American Literature (Oxford UP, 1982)
Lowell, R. Life Studies (London: Faber 1978)
Morgan, B. I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg. (Penguin, 2006)
Sass, L.A. Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought. (Harvard University Press, 1994)
Simpson, L.A.M., A revolution in Taste: Studies in Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell (London: Macmilan, 1978)
Waldan, A. (editor), Ginsberg A. (foreword), The Beat Book (Shambhala Boston, 2007)
Get Access