Ritið 2/16

Ritið 2/16 - 2016

Bergljót Soffía Kristjánsdóttir: „the disharmonious rhythm of vibrant strings“ On Hin hálu þrep by and some related observations

Is western civilization schizophrenic? What do we know about schizophrenia and are people who have been diagnosed with the disorder capable of expressing themselves in a coherent narrative? These are the kind of questions that the present paper poses, but its main subject is Bjarni Bernharður’s autobiography, Hin hálu þrep. Lífshlaup mitt (2015) (The slippery steps: The course of my life). it is an unusual work in many respects, being the life story of a man who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at an early age. Bjarni’s narrative is multimodal and describes a life that is not exactly in accordance with mainstream ideas of common bourgoise behavior. it describes acid trips and mushroom taking, hallucinations and serious psychotic fits, leading on one occasion to a violent murder. The paper briefly addresses different scholarly attitudes to schizophrenia; it then discusses autobiographical writing as a cultural phenomenon and points out some of the main characteristics of Hin hálu þrep, e.g. how the creative process itself emanates from some of its paratexts. Selected parts of the book are then analyzed in the light of various theoretical writings and its possible effects on readers are considered. Finally, the author further explains her understanding of Hin hálu þrep and also discusses Bjarni Bernharður’s changed view of the diagnosis he was originally given.
Keywords: Schizophrenia, culture/individual, autobiographical writing, multimodal narrative, medicalization
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