Psychosis in comic panels: exploring psychographics

“Silence and shame do not promote health, and people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia and their families need and deserve the support of their communities.”

-Dr. Elizabenth J. Donaldson

On November 1, the Department of English, CLA, invited Dr. Elizabeth Donaldson to give a guest lecture on Psychographics. Dr. Donaldson is currently a Professor of English and Associate Dean at the New York Institute of Technology. She has extensive scholarly experience in the field of disability studies, focusing much of her research on representations of mental illness. More recently, she has published work on how schizophrenia is represented in superhero comics and graphic memoirs.

Dr. Donaldson began the lecture by addressing the ways in which schizophrenia is ignored yet feared in both China and America. This mental illness affects millions of people and their families, yet it is still widely misunderstood and stigmatized. That is why openly discussing it, as we did in this guest lecture, is much needed.

Through the analysis of representative examples from various Marvel comics and psychographic memoirs,Dr. Donaldson illustrated how mental illnesses are represented in different graphic literary mediums. The students got a glimpse into the stigmatizing depiction of mental illness, as is commonly seen in the mass media and superhero comics. Fortunately, by contrast, mental health issues have a more personal, authentic, and less stigmatized portrayal in psychographic memoirs.

Beyond the interesting and thought-provoking information, students from CLA were also inspired by this example of professional literary scholarship. Dr. Donaldson’s informative and engaging lecture showcases the intellectual rigor as well as the sociocultural significance of research in the humanities and liberal arts.

The lecture ended after a lively Q&A session. Students were introduced to the field of disability studies and came away with a better understanding and appreciation of psychographic memoirs.

English | Tang Feng

Proofreader | David Hogsette, Han Lu

Picture | Wu Yuxi