The unexceptional schizophrenic: A post-postmodern introduction

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Catherine Prendergast contends that postmodern theory has used the figure of the schizophrenic-with all the legal, social, and rhetorical consequences of this diagnosis-to locate the boundaries of postmodernism. Even though postmodern theory has been crucial for challenging normativity and destabilizing narratives of progress, it achieves these ends by holding one identity stable: that of the schizophrenic. For example, Frederic Jameson analogizes the postmodern condition to the breakdown of the signifying chain associated with schizophrenic thought, and Jean Baudrillard compares the experience of postmodern reality to the experience of schizophrenia. These figures and other postmodern theorists propose to liberate people at the same time that postmodern theory unwittingly casts the identity of the schizophrenic outside the social order-making schizophrenics always “exceptional” rather than integrated in civic life. The tendency toward exceptionality is partly based, Prendergast suggests, on the fact that postmodern theory takes a few, rather exceptional schizophrenics from history as a model for the condition. She offers recent schizophrenic writings as a contrast; when these authors self-disclose schizophrenia, they invest the term with new meaning. Daniel Frey, for instance, suggests moving toward a focus on the masses of unexceptional schizophrenics with everyday lives. This means giving up the stability of schizophrenia as used by postmodern theorists and instead acknowledging the ability of schizophrenic people to participate in, as well as critique, late capitalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Disability Studies Reader
EditorsLennard J Davis
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781317397861
ISBN (Print)9781138930223, 9781138930230
StatePublished - Oct 14 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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