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Mad Girls: Charting Cultural Representations of Psychosocial Disability and Contemporary Hysteria(s)

  • Author(s): Dorwart, Laura M
  • Advisor(s): Reynolds, Bryan
  • et al.
Abstract

Mad Girls: Charting Cultural Representations of Psychosocial Disability and Contemporary Hysteria(s)

Mad Girls examines what I term a cast-off girl and posits what her relationship to the abject is. My conception is that the cast-off girl exceeds the boundaries of girlhood, embodying the perceived aspects of girlhood that are deemed inappropriate for public display. She points to that which is unable to be contained. I look at artifacts of pop-culture and performance made for and by girls. The girlhood depicted in these works comprises images of the eroticized, infantile, and still totally deadly Within girl-oriented pop-culture, I have identified and named two phenomena around which the performance of the mad girl is centered: girlsonas and skin speaking. The girlsona is a girled archetype and by skin speaking I am referring to how girls’ bodies are often foregrounded as proof of some internal complication.

To explore the performance of the Mad Girl, I analyze narratives of self-harm that are disseminated by girls through social media and other online platforms as a form of group identification; representations of borderline personality disorder in the films Girl, Interrupted and Prozac Nation, Merri Lisa Johnson’s performative writing in her memoir Girl In Need of a Tourniquet: Memoir of a Borderline Personality, and ultimately the musical Borderline, as an example of what can go awry when psychiatrically disabled individuals are not foregrounded in attempts to represent their narratives in performance; and the performative personas of musicians Emilie Autumn and Melanie Martinez which are both founded in representations of girlhood-after-trauma exposed through neo-Victorian themes and adolescent drag. Ultimately this dissertation is a call to reexamine the cultural products of the cast-off girl in a our age of quickly changing performance venues.

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