We Need to See Someone: Doing Madness in YA Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 

Girl, Interrupted. Crank. Thirteen Reasons Why. Wintergirls. It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Turtles All the Way Down. Amidst a preponderance of "mental illness novels" marketed toward a young-adult audience, we are left wondering: where's the Madness? This session will examine (mis)representations of Mad subjectivity in teen novels, including but not limited to representations of institutionalization; extreme states typically labelled psychosis, suicide, addiction, self-harm, disordered eating, obsession/compulsion, mania, and depression; the navigation of "stigma" and process of diagnosis; presences and gaps of racism, sexism, cisheterosexism, ableism, classism, and sizeism in mental health narratives; and the process of "recovery" (or lack thereof). How do these representations reinscribe or challenge saneist discourses of "mental illness," and what is to be learned from their cultural impact and reception?

The YA book functions both as a means of education and of entertainment, as a space both of prescription and possibility. Heightening discourses of concern over youth "mental health," and concomitant increases in predictive and surveillance technologies demand an investigation into the popular representation of mental illness, which approaches to Mad difference they offer, and which they obfuscate. From here, we might ultimately ask: what is, and isn't, the Mad YA novel? Does it exist? Where, and how?

Please submit abstracts only via https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/19390 by September 30, 2021. NeMLA membership is not required to submit an abstract, but is required to present at the conference. 

Contact Information:

Sarah Cavar

PhD Student, Cultural Studies

University of California: Davis