“If I could turn you on, if I could drive you out of your wretched mind … I would let you know”: R. D. Laing, Radical Psychiatrist

12 June 2016


Venue: Kinning Park Complex, 43 Cornwall Street, Glasgow, G41 1BA

Organiser: Dr Adrian Chapman

Adrian Chapman, who teaches British Literature and writing at American universities based in London, is currently carrying out Wellcome Trust-funded research at University of Glasgow, where he is a Visiting Fellow in The Medical Humanities Research Centre. Twitter: @dradrianchapman

In the 1960s and 70s, R. D. Laing (1927-89), a native son of Glasgow, was one the world’s best-known psychiatrists. He was renowned for his controversial questioning of the distinction between sanity and madness, and his fellow feeling for those considered mentally ill—to the extent that some of his critics thought Laing himself mentally unsound.

Having studied medicine at University of Glasgow and worked at Gartnavel Hospital in the 50s, he went on to write The Divided Self; Sanity, Madness and The Family; The Politics of Experience; and Knots (amongst other texts).

Now, in the age of ‘big pharma’, with the proliferation of diagnoses (often for what might be thought forms of quite ordinary suffering) and with mental health services under strain, interest in Laing is growing again. His Divided Self, for instance, has become a Penguin Classic. A play about him was produced in London last year, and there is a biopic starring David Tennant in production.

In this session, I’ll speak speak about my research in Laing’s archive, and we’ll discuss his work and ways of reading him.

Anyone curious is welcome. No prior knowledge necessary. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.