Accessibility statement

Mental Health and the Memoir

Organisers: Giorgia Garilli and April Norfolk

From Mary Jane Ward’s The Snake Pit (1946) to Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation (1992), to Carrie Fisher’s Shockaholic (2011), the genre of the mental health memoir is home to a wealth of challenging and neglected texts. The rich paratextual lives these works lead have historically been collapsed or overlooked, and literary scholarship has shown little interest in the “popular” mental health memoir. This research strand will provide an interdisciplinary space for critical and creative inquiry into the generic, formal, and political life of the mental health memoir from the late twentieth century to the present day.

Through a regular reading group, a seminar series, and creative workshops, the strand will support an interdisciplinary space in which to collectively explore this neglected genre, inviting scholars from across the medical humanities and cultural studies to share emerging critical and creative work.

The reading group, run fortnightly during term time, will focus on questions of genre and paratext in the autumn; life-writing in the medical humanities in the spring; and creative methodologies in the summer. Each term’s research seminar will complement this trajectory. A less formal termly “panel” will invite 2-3 students and ECRs to share and discuss work that relates to the term’s focus, creating both a networking space and a supportive workshopping environment. In the summer term, there will be regular creative workshops run by researchers using creative methodologies.

Forthcoming Events

Mental Health and the Memoir Reading Group: Inaugural Session

Thursday 14th October at 5pm

Online via Zoom 

Our inaugural session will focus on Ann Cvetkovich’s Depression: A Public Feeling (2012) to consider the value of memoir as both a topic of study and as a research method in its own right. We will be focusing on the below extracts from Cvetkovich’s book, accessible via this Google Folder. If you have any questions or have trouble accessing the reading, please contact Giorgia Garilli at

“Introduction” - pp. 1-27, focusing particularly on p. 14 (“Keyword Depression”) onwards
“Swimming” - pp. 43-61
“Reflections” - pp. 74-82

If you have any questions or have trouble accessing the reading, please contact Giorgia Garilli at

Please note: Due to the subject matter of the research strand, our reading groups will frequently engage with sensitive and complex topics. We want these reading groups to be a lively space for interdisciplinary discussions on contemporary life-writing, but are committed to respecting the lived experiences represented in the content. As such, we ask for your collaboration in maintaining a safe and supportive environment.