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Narratives of psychiatric malingering in works of fiction

Abstract

This paper argues that the representation of psychiatric malingering in literary and cinematographic narratives informs societal stereotypes, and thus influences the clinical phenomenology of malingering. The study aims to identify sociocultural models of malingering in contemporary Western society based on the narrative analysis of about 60 fictional and non-fiction texts. Two behavioural patterns derived from the Foucauldian categories folly and madness are recognisable in naïve conceptualisations of fake insanity. Fabricated significations of deviation originate in grand societal narratives rather than in medical discourse, and construct characters such as animal like underdeveloped simpletons or detached, irrational, violent madmen. Each pattern stems from its own archaic conceptual basis and dictates a distinct framework for strategies of malingering. The semiotic structure of artistic narratives of malingering is discussed in comparison with the symptomatology of existing psychiatric models.

  • malingering
  • psychiatry
  • stereotype
  • narrative
  • semiotics
  • insanity

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