Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



Thesis Type

Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors

First Advisor

Sarah E. Turner

Second Advisor

Judith Christensen

Third Advisor

Emily Bernard


Narrative, Mental Illness, Stigma, Recitatif, Modified Labeling Theory


Currently, American culture perpetuates a vast misunderstanding surrounding the topic of mental illness through misrepresentative media and literary portrayals that generalize the dramatized extremes of disorders to all individuals suffering from a mental illness. This issue is both exacerbated and defined by the lack of fluid, layperson conversations about mental health. This project aims to invoke an interior and exterior dialogue about the preconceptions, stereotypes, and biases that our society holds concerning mental illness. This will be achieved via a series of short narratives that borrow from Toni Morrison’s innovative techniques in her 1983 text “Recitatif.” In this short story, Morison excludes racial labels and codes as she describes the lifelong and challenging friendship of two women of differing races to whom race is essential. In the current project, the social coding being excluded will focus on mental illness as opposed to Morrison’s focus on race. The evocation of Morrison’s work is not done to equate race and mental illness, which are two unrelated though potentially co-existing identities. Instead, the aim of the current project is to highlight another, separate pattern of oppression within our society. Through this shift in focus, an ambiguity is established that acknowledges the humanity within each character, allowing each to be a whole and complex individual separate from stereotypical characterizations, regardless of their mental health status.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.