Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 779–790 | Cite as

Open image in new window prescriptions: hyperrealism and the chemical regulation of mood

  • Alan BleakleyEmail author
  • Margaretta Jolly


Using contemporary literary sources, we explore the powerful ideological framework that normalises prescription dependency as part of everyday life, focusing upon the treatment of mood disorders. Through a literary critical methodology, we read novels by American hyperrealists such as Bret Easton Ellis, David Foster Wallace and Rick Moody as symptomatic of prescription culture. Though we argue that these writers brilliantly understand the dangers of mood medication, they do not escape its logic, rather, ‘writing it out’ as they write against it. Indeed, we propose that their novels bear ironic similarities to medical texts such as the British National Formulary, usually seen as a neutral handbook for physicians’ guidance in prescribing. We explicate their method as that of deconstruction, which, in contrast to more obvious critiques of chemical treatment, such as therapy, neither analyses nor cures. Though this method underplays the possibility of pragmatic and political resistance exemplified by alternative formularies such as the long-established feminist health manual Our Bodies, Ourselves, we argue that its very ambiguity uniquely exposes the complex determinisms associated with prescribed medication. We thus propose the value of drawing on deconstructive literature to better understand ‘health’ interventions such as prescription drugs for the regulation of mood.


Deconstruction Drug formulary Literary analysis Prescription culture 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Clinical Education, Peninsula Medical SchoolUniversities of Exeter and PlymouthPlymouthUK
  2. 2.Centre for Life History and Life Writing ResearchUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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