Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Globally and historically, madness appears as a prominent socio-medical concern that also occupies a significant space in literary tradition. There has been an increase in the number of scholars who study madness and literature in postcolonial works. However, the predominant view and treatment of madness – both socially and medically – adheres to the European, white male construct that has informed a more or less universal regard of those who suffer from mental woes: they are deranged, sick, ill. This poses a problem for postcolonial works when we consider the sexist and racist implications in psychology that were enhanced through the colonial project, justified through self-referential science, and continue today. This study interrogates the troubling assumptions of the ‘mad other’ by arguing that rather than ‘madness,’ authors and their characters create alternative realities as psychic shields. These formations are both a result of and protection from oppressive or disturbing experiences and/or environments. This dissertation investigates forms of trauma that compel characters to create different worlds. Although male characters may endure forms of violence, women most especially endure emotional deprivation and/or sexual violence that has an impact on the narrative voice and identity, reflecting greater problems in reality. The authors of ‘mad’ characters and the characters themselves offer insight to other worlds that should not be dismissed as mere fiction. Atrocity is real and the mechanisms we develop in the face of horror are an effort to preserve the inner self from complete fracture. The characters in this study are not ‘crazy’. Rather, they seek divergent worlds to mentally survive horrific experiences. This research validates alternative realities as logical responses to trauma and oppression. To do so, this study combines postcolonial theories, feminist studies, psychology, and psychoanalysis, and global statistics to contribute a different approach to ‘madness’ and elucidate the need for alternative realities that ultimately impacts us all.



Committee Chair

Jensen, Katharine A.



Available for download on Sunday, March 30, 2025