In her new book, State of Madness: Psychiatry, Literature and Dissent After Stalin (Northern Illinois University Press, 2018), Rebecca Reich argues that Soviet dissident writers used literary narratives to counter state-sanctioned psychiatric diagnoses of insanity. Reich discusses the interesting literary preoccupations of Soviet psychiatrists and psychiatric discourse in the post-Stalin era to help readers understand the context of these diagnoses of madness. Her book mines the works and experiences of dissidents, including Joseph Brodsky, Aleksandr Vol’pin, Vladimir Bukovskii, and others, to weave a narrative that shows how Soviet writers contended with false accusations of mania and madness. She also shows how these writers sought to use their works to illustrate the pathology of post-Stalinist Soviet society.
Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon is a History Instructor at Lee College.