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Two accounts of one life: Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted and Madness in close-up. Katarzyna Szmigiero University of Jan Kochanowski, Poland szmigierko@hotmail.com. Attitude to illness as a criterion of classification:.

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two accounts of one life marya hornbacher s wasted and madness in close up
Two accounts of one life: Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted and Madness in close-up

Katarzyna Szmigiero

University of Jan Kochanowski, Poland

szmigierko@hotmail.com

attitude to illness as a criterion of classification
Attitude to illness as a criterion of classification:
  • Denial: 19th century asylum narratives, Kate Millet’s The Loony-Bin Trip, Janet Frame’s An Autobiography, Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted;
  • Admitting to psychological problems, rejecting psychiatric labelling and treatment offered: Ch. P. Gillman The Yellow Wallpaper, Mary Barnes & Joseph Berke’s Mary Barnes. Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Norah Vincent’s Voluntary Madness. My Year Lost and Found in the Loony-Bin;
attitude to illness as a criterion of classification4
Attitude to illness as a criterion of classification:
  • Acknowleding the reality of the illness and the necessity of professional treatment:

Lori Shiller and Amanda Bennett’s The Quiet Room. A Journey out of the Torment of Madness, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s The Prozac Nation, Elyn R. Sack’s The Center Cannot Hold. My Journey Through Madness, Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted. A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia and Madness. A Bipolar Life.

attitude to illness influences narrative structure
Attitude to illness influences narrative structure
  • Denying illness – making use of anti-psychiatric theories
  • Accepting illness - employing psychological, psychoanalytical theories, including reconstructions of conversations during therapy; attempting to render the experience of illness into words (figurative language, dream-like logic of inner monologues)
slide6

Admitting to being mentally illmakes the author interpret her life story through a theoretical (medical, cultural, psychological or therapeutic) framework and construct her testimony in accordance with it. Only those aspects of her experience that are congruous with her diagnosis are focused on while others are marginalised or even ignored. It is not conspicuous since most people author one madness narrative presenting one illness identity.

marya hornbacher born 1974
Marya Hornbacher (born 1974)

Wasted. A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia

(1998)

Madness. A Bipolar Life (2008)

hornbacher s memoirs
Hornbacher’s memoirs
  • Facts from her life are put in a thoroughly researched theoretical framework
  • Medical facts, psychological ideas, cultural assumptions
  • Lengthy bibliography
  • Not just a biography
wasted
Wasted
  • Disgust with her body
  • Family dynamics: overemotional, indulgent father, seemingly unattached and unemotional mother, who diets a lot
  • Culture of thinness
  • Hornbacher ‘fits’ the anorectic profile as described by various scholars (highly achieving, competitive, yet insecure, lacks positive feedback from carers)
wasted11
Wasted
  • No mentioning of being moody before the onset of eating disorders
  • When bulimic or anorectic she feels ‘volatile’, ‘manic’, ‘batty’, ‘intense’, has ‘racing thoughts’, has ‘freaked out’. ‘Mania is easy when you’re not eating.’
madness
Madness
  • After recovery from anorexia still serious problems with mental stability: violent mood swings, drinking, self-harm. New diagnosis.
  • Theory: anorexia masked her manic-depression. Excessive dieting was ‘a homemade replacement for what a psychiatrist would prescribe for me if he knew: a mood stabilizer’.
self inflicted starvation as a method of stilling thoughts
Self-inflicted starvation as a method of stilling thoughts?
  • Researchers state: ‘starvation has a disorganising effect of psychological reactions’ since ‘chronic malutrition is accompanied by biochemical changes which [...] influence thinking, feeling, and beahaviour to an enormous degree’, lack of concentration, restlessness, tension, angry outbursts, irritation, anxiety
  • Was Hornbacher’s biocemistry so different? Could she psychologically benefit from not eating?
steven levenkron s 4 stages of anorexia
Steven Levenkron’s 4 stages of anorexia
  • Stage 4, ‘the pseudo-identuty stage’. Anorectic identity becomes the sole identity the sufferers have. Recovery is difficult as it robs the patients of their only identity, leaving them blank and empty.
  • Hornbacher feels a desperate need to incorporate the familiar notions she has had about herself into her new life and new diagnosis.
new diagnosis leads to
New diagnosis leads to:
  • discrepancies between the two accounts
  • the shift in focus
  • attribution of different motivation
explanation
Explanation?
  • The present modifies the perception of the past in order to provide us with a sense of continuity and integrity
  • ‘in remembering the past, we do not simply recall events as they happened, rather, we selectively recall, narrating a story of the past that makes sense to us (Burr and Butt, p. 201).
  • it may not be a ‘true’ past, varifiable past but it makes sense to us, is helpful to structure our lives
sources and bibliography
Sources and bibliography:
  • Primary Sources:
  • Hornbacher, Marya. Wasted. A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia. London: Flamingo, 1998.

-------------- . Madness. A Bipolar Life. London: Harper Perennial, 2009.

  • Secondary Sources:
  • Appignanesi, Lisa. “Body Madness.” In: Mad, Bad and Sad. Women and the Mind Doctors. London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008, pp. 378-404.
  • Bruch, Hilde. The Golden Cage. The Enigma of Anorexia Nervosa. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.
  • Brumberg, Joan Jacobs. Fasting Girls. The History of Anorexia Nervosa. Vintage: New York, 2000.
  • Burr, Vivien and Trevor Butt, “Psychological Distress and Postmodern Thought.” In Pathology and the Postmodern. Mental Illness as Discourse and Experience. Ed. Dwight Fee. London: Sage Publications, 2000, pp. 186-206.
  • Fee, Dwight, “The Project of Pathology: Reflexitivity and Depression in Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation.” In: Pathology and the Postmodern. Mental Illness as Discourse and Experience. Ed. Dwight Fee. London: Sage Publications, 2000, pp. 74-99.
  • Hendricks, Jenny. Slim to None. A Journey Through the Wasteland of Anorexia Treatment. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
  • Levenkron, Stephen. Anatomy of Anorexia. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.
  • Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth. London: Vintage Books, 1991.
primary sources
Primary Sources:
  • Ivonne Thein Thirty-two kilos
  • www.maryahornbacher.com