Hybridité du récit de folie : le cas d’André Baillon et de Léon Schwarz-Abrys

in Hybrid Genres / L'Hybridité des genres
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Abstract

The stories that the Belgian novelist André Baillon and the Hungarian-born painter Léon Schwarz-Abrys draw from their personal experience of mental illness and the asylum involve a similar generic and discursive hybridity. On the one hand, these texts, which were published as novels, blur the boundaries between fiction and self-writing, thanks to textual and paratextual strategies which prevent any unequivocal generic – fictional or testimonial – assignment. They use the heuristic dimension of the intermediary form of self-fiction to reach a certain truth about the elusive experience of madness. Furthermore, they benefit from the legitimacy linked to the presumed authenticity of their discourse but also from the devices of fiction that allow them to share an experience known to be unspeakable and inaudible with the reader. On the other hand, these works question the status of authority of different discourses in the field of mental illness, be they medical, literary, specialized, or personal. Accordingly, these novels produce an alternative knowledge, at the intersection of these various discursive orders. They bring the subjectivity of the patient back at the core of the epistemological approach of madness and reinitiate the fractured dialogue between reason and madness. Giving directly access to the patient’s vision, without any form of medical mediation, these stories enhance the experiential knowledge against the theoretical and categorizing medical approach. Moreover, they highlight the symbolic violence of psychiatric discourse and expose the flaws of medical judgment. Through a lucid and reflexive introspection, their insane characters give us a rich and consistent discourse on madness while still coming from madness, all the more as the novels of Schwarz-Abrys also depict the reappropriation of the scientific discourse by the patient hereby redistributing power relations.