"The judges of normality are present everywhere". Some critical thoughts on Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization and Discipline and Punish presented through an analysis of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
This thesis on individual heterogeneity and institutional medical care and education in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) focuses on ‘otherness’ and psychological variance within Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization (1961) and Discipline and Punish (1975). The thesis aims to investigate how ‘otherness’ is treated within two different institutions represented in the novels – the psychiatric ward in Kesey’s Cuckoo’s Nest and the school in Haddon’s Curious Incident. Using Foucault’s aspects on madness and mental illness in his Madness and Civilization, the thesis argues that the patients in Kesey’s Cuckoo’s Nest are a perfect illustration of Foucault’s ‘Stultifera Navis’. Because the patients are labeled as ‘the other’ and ‘the abnormal’ in society, they are isolated, alienated, dehumanized, normalized and stigmatized within an institution that has the same structures of a totalitarian system. Erving Goffman’s ideas of stigma is used to illustrate the extremely negative consequences of labeling an individual as ‘abnormal’, as it decreases an individual’s quality of life and self-esteem. Furthermore, Foucault’s different elements of disciplinary power presented in Discipline and Punish are carefully examined in order to explore the totalitarian structures that the medical staff operates upon the patients’ bodies. The interpretation of the Cuckoo’s Nest investigates how modes of power dehumanize the patients’ individuality with the attempt to create Foucaultian ‘docile’, ‘productive’, ‘normal’ and ‘better’ bodies. The interpretation offers a detailed description of inmate Chief Bromden’s critical point of view of the Combine institution and his understanding of how it suppresses and normalizes every form of individuality. The unstable power relation between the Big Nurse and McMurphy is investigated, where it is argued that the patients and the medical staff are all menials of a totalitarian system that controls and regulates them. In contrast to the controlling and suppressing institution illustrated in the Cuckoo’s Nest, Haddon portrays a much more improved institution in The Curious Incident. The school is beneficial in Christopher’s life as it focuses on a people-oriented system where inclusive education and the single individual’s abilities are highly valued. The thesis invites for a different interpretation of The Curious Incident, as it looks beyond Christopher’s diagnosis and rather explores the school as a well- functioning institution that supports individuals who are labeled as ‘abnormal’ by diagnostic systems and a conventional society. Foucault’s philosophical treatise and Kesey’s and Haddon’s novels contribute to change radically concepts of normality, difference and otherness for the sake of cognitive acceptance of human diversity and social reform of the important democratic institutions of individual thinking, arts, social care and education.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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