Psychic threesomes: madness and psychotherapy in Xu Xu’s novel Elegy of a Psychotic (Jingshenbing huanzhe de beige)

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

Abstract

Although Xu Xu’s (1908–1980) writing has garnered increasing attention in scholarly criticism and literary histories, his insightful novella Jingshenbing huanzhe de beige (Elegy for a Psychotic, 1943) has not attracted the same attention as his other writing. Elegy is a rare example of a literary engagement with psychological theories and clinical approaches. Central to the novel is the triangular relationship between a psychiatric assistant, a patient, and the patient’s live-in nurse, framed from beginning to end by the mentoring of the assistant by a famous French psychiatrist. This narrative set-up creates a dynamic that captures the representation of abnormal psychology and the reception of psychological idea. This paper argues that the narrative format and the psycho-ethical engagement of Elegy offer a rare cross-cultural examination of psychological ideas and psychotherapy in literary representation. As a coming of age story that takes place in 1930s Paris rather than in China and draws on Xu Xu’s neo-Romanticism, it points to a universally shared trauma derived from social repression and high idealism. In addition, it is a rare piece of writing that draws extensively on the nexus between medicine and literature and thus offers an interesting contribution to the field of Medical Humanities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-511
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Communication of Chinese Culture
Volume3
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

The work described in this paper was fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. CityU 143913)

Keywords

  • Chinese literature
  • Xu Xu (1908–1980)
  • Psychotherapy
  • Madness in literature
  • Medical Humanities

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Psychic threesomes: madness and psychotherapy in Xu Xu’s novel Elegy of a Psychotic (Jingshenbing huanzhe de beige)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this