Imagining madness

That which the gods would destroy, they first make mad…

One of my literature classes this semester focuses on the depictions of madness in fiction, with a reading list that includes King Lear, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Wide Sargasso Sea, The Bell Jar and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. You know, the happy books.

In the first class, we established some definitions to separate true mental illness from the kind of “madness” being depicted in these books. Concepts of madness have been used in fiction to uphold oppressive social and political programs, and often levied at those…



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Elizabeth Donald

Journalist for more than 25 years, freelance writer, editor, photographer, and fiction author. Subscribe at or visit