Bianchi on narrative theories of the self and their classification of pathology

4 PM Andria Bianchi “Pathologies of the Self”

Bianchi explores the resources of Marya Schectman’s narrative self-constitution view of the self to accomodate schizophrenics and other individuals with mental pathology–do such individuals count as persons on Schectman’s view? Some such individuals suffer disorders which prevent them from attaining identity in Schectman’s terms; Bianchi argues Schectman should not deny such individuals personhood and explores ways to deal with this ‘exclusionary problem.’ Bianchi considers 3 distinct responses: a) posit a core self in addition to the narrative self, and accept that pathological individuals may fail to have a narrative self, but maintain a core self; b) consider such individuals to have an illness narrative which can conform to Schechtman’s requirements on narrativity; c) expand the narrative self-constitution view to allow for episodics and pathological individuals.

Jill Rusin:  Schectman maintains that personal identity hinges on a unitary narrative self and so your paper raises the question, in the form of the ‘exclusionary problem,’ as to whether subjects like Mary count as persons on Schectman’s view.  But I wonder about the implications of Schectman’s requirements for persons who are significantly fragmented in their lives due, not to some personal mental pathology, but to a pathology of the society in which they must exist–here I’m thinking of someone like the characters in Nella Larson’s novel Passing, African-Amercian women who live dual lives, ( in black Sugar Hill of the 20s, in white N.Y.C.)

Also, does the literature on narrative self-constitution connect at all with philosophical literature on, does it have adequate hermeneutical resources in the sorts of accounts it offers, to treat persons who live in conditions of colonialism, racism, homophobia, slavery, for example? I’m wondering whether the ‘illness narrative’ you discuss would be adequate, what are its implications for a character like Sethe in Toni Morrison’s Beloved?

Bob Litke:  What are the implications for such persons who suffer a radical break in identity–like those who are shunned from their community?


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