Jacqueline Hopson is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, exploring the depiction of psychiatrists in English and American fiction. She has a BA (Hons) in English from Durham University and an MA in Modern American fiction from Exeter University. Her interest in psychiatry stems from being a lifelong user of mental health services.

When a novel changes a social system: Mary Jane Ward’s The Snake Pit (1946) and the US state psychiatric hospital

It is rare for a novel to radically affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, yet Mary Jane Ward’s novel, The Snake Pit (1946), drew widespread critical attention to the plight of the mentally ill in American state asylums. It is not claiming too much to say that treatment of the insane began its long, unsteady road to improvement after Ward’s fiction had reached out to a huge, popular audience, tackling a subject that had previously been taboo. Continue reading