School of Social Work Professor Chris Hall

SSW Professor Published Manuscript in Journal of Systematic Therapies

School of Social Work Professor Chris Hall published his manuscript, “A Narrative Case Study of Hamlet and the Cultural Construction of Western Individualism, Diagnosis, and Madness,” in the Journal of Systemic Therapies. Read the abstract below or to read the full manuscript, click here.

There is no story in Western literature that epitomizes the dominant Western discourse of individualism as clearly, and its effects as boldly, as Shakespeare's Hamlet. “This above all: to thine own self be true” (I.iii.78) is the cornerstone of Western individualism and the discourse of the individual over the relational. Though Hamlet was written over 500 years ago, the theme of individualism parallels strongly with the present Western construction of madness in mental health. In this article, a narrative case study of Hamlet is presented as a creative vehicle to explain narrative therapy and to challenge the individualized notion of madness by decentering it, unpacking it, and making it visible (Derrida, 1997; White, 1991). It is proposed in Hamlet that self-subjugation related to individualizing discourse, coupled with corresponding discourses concerning duty, honor, and gender, influence Shakespeare's characters’ abilities to communicate and to polyvocally negotiate the meaning of events in their lives. This inability to recognize multiple interpretations of events, the desire and grappling for one truth (mono-truth), creates conflict in the family such that the struggle for meaning results in some family members being marginalized, labeled as insane, and ultimately the negotiation for truth culminates in murder. Given the prevalence of the dominant discourse of individualism in the Western world, Shakespeare's Hamlet serves as a generative case study for counselors.