on madness. a writing exercise.


In one way or another, the protagonists of Wise Blood, Lolita, On the Road, Franny and Zooey, and The Crying of Lot 49 all have their sanity called into question, and various abnormal mental states (religious enthusiasm, drug hallucinations, and so forth) potentially compromise their rational faculties. Discuss the theme of madness in one of these novels. How are madness and sanity defined and represented? Is madness a wholly undesirable state? Madness is often connected to a protagonist or seems to be a source of authority. What does it mean to have an authorial voice claim madness?

Essay questions from Yale OpenCourse: The American Novel Since 1945, make for wonderful writing exercises. I’ve got a lot of miles out of this one. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the above mentioned novels. Apply the question to something similar that you may have read. Or, use it as a tool to examine a piece of your own writing.

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