Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2001
Subject: Re: Hannah's visions

Camille Martin wrote:

> I read that she was diagnosed with schizophrenia ... I'm less interested in
> the label of an illness than I am with what was happening in her brain
> during her visions. . . . I'd appreciate any comments
> on this or sources to read.

Interest will go where'er it wilt, but---

You might find greater amplitude by not taking that label to be a "label of an illness" per se but a label of a condition, to start with,---

along the lines of (predictably) Deleuze-Guattari Capitalism and
, etc., or the similarly neutral use of the term Fredric Jameson
made in applying it to Language Poetry.

First off, to de-pejoratize your own notion of schizophrenia, which can be a
useful descriptive signifier, and treat it with greater equanimity. Could
widen your critical applicability.

Or even Szasz, The Myth of Mental Illness, and the whole R.D. Laing British
anti-psychiatry approach.

Or the Semiotexte back issue on "Schizoculture": a broader approach that sees
schizophrenia as endemic to America that's only emblematized in its
recognizable cases.

Her Language friends whose Weiner eulogies I read seemed to treat the matter
(evidently "discovered" late) with unbiassed candor.

Her ongoing political relevance may lie partially in exactly the fact of that
label,--- much like the pellucid clarity after James Schuyler's reported
episodes of psychosis: high-functioning, basically adaptive individuals who
found a position in embracing communities, who lived pretty much happy lives,
given baseline existential angst --- as opposed to the more malevolent "role
models" Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton became by yielding to self-murder in the

In light of Plath/Sexton's relation to Confessionalism versus Weiner's to
Language Poetry (and with the unfortunate, after-the-fact revelation of Ramez
's similar condition viz-a-viz "post"-Language), I have, rather than
waning interest, in fact wondered whether there isn't some way that
Confessionalism's aesthetics of a concretized, reified self and ego-exposure
weren't intrinsically contributory to the high rate of suicides in that camp:
Roethke, Berryman . . .

Language/"post-Language" Poetry's literary high tolerance for deviation, its
virtual enthusiasm at aberration, apparently coincides with a much lower
degree of pathologization of its poets, generally speaking. Rather the
mystique of the "professionalized" poet generation: careerist, MFA.

Know what I mean?

Illnesses can be fatal, but they must be potentially curable, even where a cure
has not been found. Schizophrenia, like narcissism, by being "incurable" falls
onto a different diagnostic axis than, say, garden variety neurosis. Like
AIDS, which is not an illness, but a "Syndrome."

Weiner's success could be very valuable in the empowerment or treatment of the
similarly diagnosed, and the consciousness raising of the self-styled
"normal." (There is no such DSM-IV category as "normal," Camille.
Everybody's something.)

Despite the unique prominence and notoriety of (violent) schizophrenics in the
press, in a sense you cannot be schizophrenic in America, . . . any more than
there could've been such a person as, say, an obsessive compulsive Medieval
, or an obsessive compulsive Kabbalist, . . . or a histrionic Bacchante .