Author Anna Kavan’s critical and popular reception since her death in 1968 has been defined by a cult of personality fuelled by revelations about her psychiatric breakdown, heroin use and adoption of her own fictional character’s name. Victoria Walker unravels some of the accumulated mythology around this writer, and examines her complex association with, and interest in, early twentieth-century psychiatry and psychotherapy.
As well as being treated in private asylums and nursing homes, Kavan underwent a short analysis at the Tavistock Clinic, experienced Ludwig Binswanger’s method of existential psychotherapy at the Bellevue Sanatorium, and had a close personal relationship with her longtime psychiatrist Karl Bluth. Kavan promoted a radical politics of madness, giving voice to the disenfranchised and marginalized psychiatric patient and presaging the anti-psychiatry movement.
Dr Victoria Walker’s research focuses on twentieth-century women writers and fictional representations of psychiatric treatment. She wrote the introduction to the recent edition of Kavan’s ‘I Am Lazarus’. She teaches at King’s College, London and administers the Anna Kavan Society.
Part of a season of performances, talks, films and events accompanying the exhibition ‘Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors’, 10 October 2013 – 2 February 2014.