• Narrow screen resolution
  • Wide screen resolution
  • Decrease font size
  • Default font size
  • Increase font size
Conferences Other Conferences
Madness, Mental Illness and Mind Doctors in 20th and 21st Century Pop Culture

University of Edinburgh, 3rd & 4th May 2018
CFP (by 2nd February, 2018)



In Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault writes that “madness fascinates man”. Indeed, examples of this dark allure are present throughout the ages. From tales of those who paid a penny on Sundays to view the insane held at London’s Bethlem Hospital in the early nineteenth century, to ever popular portrayals of mental illness and madness in the literature, television, and film of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, representations of psychiatric illness remain loaded, highly visible, and deeply entrenched in Western pop culture.

Mental illness – and more colloquially, madness – often functions metaphorically as representative of a subversive liminality that delegitimizes protest against the status quo. Characters like John Givings in Richard Yates’s novel Revolutionary Road, for example, are ultimately neutralized as political agents through psychiatric diagnosis. Other more recent filmic and televisual representations of mental illness utilize such psychiatric tropes in alternative but highly recognizable ways. Television shows such as Sherlock and House emphasize the connection between madness and genius, while Fight Club and the television series Mr Robot focus on the social equation between mental illness and criminality. The American true crime podcast Sword and Scale has been accused of demonising victims of mental illness. In Andrew Solomon’s Noonday Demon, Allie Brosh’s webcomic Hyperbole and a Half, and Kabi Nagata’s manga My Lesbian Experiences with Loneliness, the line between pathology and pathography, medicine and memoir, has blurred.

This conference will examine these representations, and explore the ways in which madness, mental illness, and those who are both affected by, and striving to treat, psychological maladies are depicted in twentieth and twenty-first century popular culture. We ask: how have fluctuating historical conditions and attitudes influenced the ways in which madness and mental illness are portrayed in the media? What kind of relationship exists between medical understandings of psychological disorders and popular depictions of such illnesses? Do contemporary portrayals of “madness” in popular fictions work to demystify and destigmatize mental illness, or do these representations reinforce negative stereotypes, further obfuscating our understanding of psychological disorders?


We welcome proposals for 20-minute presentations from a range of disciplines that engage with popular conceptions of madness and mental illness in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Proposals that include visual arts or other media, as well as the traditional paper, are welcomed. Topics include, but are not limited to:


Depictions of mental illness in film, television, literature, podcasts, graphic novels, and video games.

Madness as political/protest (social conformity as ‘true’ madness)

Women/gender and madness

Madness and creativity

Pop culture vs. medical establishment

Psychiatry in popular culture

Madness and horror/the Gothic

Madness, confinement, and physical space

Asylums, community care, and deinstitutionalization

Madness as metaphor

History of psychiatry and antipsychiatry

Freud and the history of popularization of psychoanalysis

Post-war psychiatry

The politics/impact/importance of life narratives

The “myth” of mental illness

Medical humanities and medical science

Mental health and contemporary politics

Madness and confessional narrative

Please submit abstracts of 300 words, along with a short biographical note (150 words), to madnessinpopculture@gmail.com by 2nd February, 2018. Further information at www.madnessinpopculture.com.

Follow us on Twitter @madpopculture or facebook, under “Madness in Pop Culture PG Conference”.


EAAS Biennial Conferences

Contact Information

If you would like to see your conference advertized here, write to the EAAS Webmaster, Prof. Jacques Pothier (interim).

Learn more on other means of dissemination on American Studies in Europe.


Other Conferences

Lausanne, 2 and 3 November 2018

CFP (by April 30, 2018)


University of North Georgia, Dahlonega, 9-11 July 2018, Georgia USA

CFP (by February 16, 2018)


Central European University and the University of Debrecen, 27-28 April 2018, Budapest, Hungary

CFP (by December 15, 2017)

University College Dublin

CFP (by January 22, 2018)

European Journal of American Studies

The European Journal of American Studies is the official journal of EAAS. It welcomes contributions from Americanists in Europe and elsewhere and aims at making available state-of-the-art research on all aspects of United States culture and society.

Read more at http://ejas.revues.org/.

European Views of the United States

European Views of the United States is the official book series of the EAAS.9783825365783       

We are proud to announce volumes 8, 9, 10 of the series:

Tanrisever, Ahu. Fathers, Warriors, and Vigilantes: Post-Heroism and the US Cultural Imaginary in the Twenty-First Century, vol. 10, 2016 (Rob Kroes Publication Award 2015).

Intercontinental Crosscurrents: Women's Networks across Europe and the Americas, eds. Julia Nitz, Sandra H. Petrulionis, and Theresa Schön, vol. 9, 2016.

America: Justice, Conflict, War, eds. Amanda Gilroy and Marietta Messmer, vol. 8, 2016 (The Hague Conference 2014).

Read more ...

picto_facebook picto_twitter