Re-presenting madness in the form of a quadrilogue

Clarke, Simon P. (2017). Re-presenting madness in the form of a quadrilogue. In: Avieson, Bunty; Giles, Fiona and Joseph, Sue eds. Mediating Memory: Tracing the Limits of Memoir. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 59–73.



There has been a renewed interest in the subjectivity of madness through the medium of first person accounts of psychological distress. These accounts, often termed ‘autoethnographies’ (Ellis et al., 2011) have formed an important part of our cultural understanding of the experience of madness and of using mental health services (Grant et al., 2013). However, these accounts are also not without issues. Often a coherent and linear narrative is assumed that fails to adequately capture the dissonant, non-linear experience of distress (Stone, 2004). Narrative accounts are also vulnerable to the charge of methodological solipsism (Atkinson, 2009). In order to circumnavigate these challenges, the authors suggest a ‘strategically authentic’ approach to the first-person account via the development of a novel methodology the authors’ term the ‘quadrilogue’. The quadrilogue utilises first-person recollections of distress alongside medical notes, a carer’s diary and contemporary reflections on the research process. By combining these sources together in the description of one of the author’s experience of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), the chapter illustrates the complexities of re-presenting the subjectivity of madness whilst also offering an affectively resonant, yet scholarly rigorous, take on narrative accounts of distress and using medical services.

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