Schizophrenic Modernist

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Alan D. Mitchell

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Mar 2, 1994, 6:30:26 PM3/2/94
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Sorry not to have excerpted other posts, but my understanding of cultural and
social psychoses would put paranoia with the moderns and schizophrenia with the
postmoderns. Briefly stated, paranoia is the man vs. system construct, with the man being at the
bottom of the hierarchy (mostly a modern notion, I think), whereas schizophrenia would be (as someone
pointed out) thought disorder, inability to separate self from non-self, and similar questions of
identity.

The best literary/cultural example I can think of is Thomas Pynchon, master of American paranoia. In
Gravity's Rainbow, we see a protagonist entrenched in an enormous system of Nazis and chemists, and he
spends most of his time figuring out what conspiracy(ies) are operating against him. Pynchon is even
kind enough to offer some "proverbs for paranoids" and other aphorisms. In his Crying of Lot 49, we
get Oedipa Maas scrambling to discover the secrets of an underground postal service. True, she is
paranoid, but more of a paranoid schizophrenic, and she ends up almost incapable of separating herself
from the conspirators and the dead.

The most well-known real-life example of pm schizophrenia I know of is John Hinckley, Jr., would-be assassinator
of then-President Reagan. Hinckley (clinically diagnosed as schizophrenic), obsessed with
Scorcese/DeNiro's Taxi Driver, mimicked nearly every characteristic of the film's main character,
Travis Bickle. Hinckley (like Bickle) collected firearms, made up girlfriends for his parents' sake,
was obsessed with Jodi Foster, drove around NY looking for prostitutes to save, stalked presidential
figures, and eventually maade first-page news with his gun. Hinckley (apparently) failed to separate
self from non self, got caught up in paranoid delusions of grandeur ("One day you [Jodi Foster] and I
will occupy the White House and the peasants will drool with envy"), thought various people were out to
get him, sat around doing nothing for quite a while (bipolar disorder or catatonic schizophrenia, I'm
not sure), and wrote impenetrable things in his diary (characteristic of hebephrenic schizophrenia).
It's not too hard to project these characteristics onto culture at large, if you ask me.

For the big talk on Schizophrenia and Postmodernism, see Jameson's [unabridged] "Postmodernism, or The
Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism." Also, Ihab Hassan somewhere posits paranoia as modern psychosis,
and schizophrenia as postmodern.

- Al Mitchell
adm...@cs.wm.edu
William and Mary.

Robert W. Fink

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Mar 7, 1994, 10:09:01 PM3/7/94
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Stop me if you've heard this before (i just got here), but
has anyone referenced:

Deleuze and Guattari, "Anti-Oedipus"?

Summarizing is hopeless (i dunno if I ever really understood
that book), but paranoid-schizoid are used as two poles of a
right-wing, left-wing dialectic that might map onto modern-
postmodern.

of relevance?

robert fink
eastman school of music

Landis Duffett

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Mar 8, 1994, 5:55:42 PM3/8/94
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In article <1994Mar8.0...@galileo.cc.rochester.edu> Robert W.

Fink, es...@troi.cc.rochester.edu writes:
>Stop me if you've heard this before (i just got here), but
>has anyone referenced:
>
>Deleuze and Guattari, "Anti-Oedipus"?
>
>Summarizing is hopeless (i dunno if I ever really understood
>that book), but paranoid-schizoid are used as two poles of a
>right-wing, left-wing dialectic that might map onto modern-
>postmodern.


What? "Right-wing" and "Left-wing"? I would really be interested in
knowing what part of the text you're basing this dichotomy/equation on:
"Right-wing" equals modern and "left-wing" equals postmodern. Regardless
of whether this dichotomy has any merit (which I personally don't believe
it does), where do Deleuze and Guattari talk about Modern=right-wing,
Postmodern=left-wing?
Just curious (and afraid I'm missing something in Anti-Oedipus!).

>of relevance?
Landis Duffett
Internet: duf...@utxvms.cc.utexas.edu
AOL: gregr...@aol.com

"I like USA Today. It's the only newspaper that's not afraid to tell the
truth--that everything is just fine!"
--Homer Simpson

Landis Duffett

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Mar 8, 1994, 5:58:08 PM3/8/94
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In article <OGDENC.52...@caedm.et.byu.edu> Christopher Ogden,
OGD...@caedm.et.byu.edu writes:
>Similarly, the end of ideology of the post-modern era causes a loss of
>personality, which would lead to a fascination with schizophrenia.

Do you honestly believe that the present era has seen the end of ideology?
How so? I don't think such a statement is as unproblematic as you seem to
treat it.

Christopher Ogden

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Mar 8, 1994, 6:08:37 PM3/8/94
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In article <2livu1$4...@geraldo.cc.utexas.edu> Landis Duffett <duf...@utxvms.cc.utexas.edu> writes:
>>Similarly, the end of ideology of the post-modern era causes a loss of
>>personality, which would lead to a fascination with schizophrenia.

>Do you honestly believe that the present era has seen the end of ideology?
>How so? I don't think such a statement is as unproblematic as you seem to
>treat it.

It is an exaggeration. I should have enclosed it in quotes, since I was
referring to the *popular sentiment* that ideology was ended. Obviously,
there is still ideology out there, but it is not nearly as polarized or
cleanly-defined as it was during the modernist era. The fact that we *think*
that ideology has ended makes us fascinated with schizophrenia because this
mental disorder parallels what we see in the more-disjointed personality of
present society.

-----------------------------
Christopher Ogden
ogd...@caedm.et.byu.edu

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