Sara Heristchi, M.A.

Research Assistant


Writing Scenes of Depression in Contemporary U.S. literature


The contemporary discourse on depression promotes a bioreductionist view of depression as chemical imbalance in the brain. The current interest in personal accounts of depression coincides with the proliferation of antidepressants such as Prozac since the 1980s, changes in the guidelines to direct-to-consumer advertising (1997), and the increasing cultural capital attributed to psychiatry. In the context of the 21st century memoir boom, especially those in the writing professions such as journalists and academics have written about how depression influenced their work. Therefore, an initial question my research addresses is straightforward: How do writers write about depression? Close consideration reveals a paradox: How can one write about depression when depressed and how can one overcome an experience that precludes productivity? Depression memoirs often tell a linear narrative of recovery from an experience defined as illness. However, writers also have to come to terms with the chronic, cyclical and contradictory aspects of depression. In interviews, articles and during public lectures, writers on depression present themselves as authorities and the audience perceives them as authentic experts on the subject. This process is guided by undefined notions of mental health and what constitutes ‘normal’ behavior. What answers to this normative discourse of depression does contemporary literature provide? Writing scenes of depression are simultaneously personal and part of larger emotional and literary fields, resulting in the performance of life as a writer and the positing of an identity as a ‘depressed person’. Using a model of depression that addresses the biocultural phenomenon of depression in the light of social pathology will aid my exploration of conflicts and contradictions that emerge.

2013  to 2014: Research Analyst, Government of Nunavut- Department of Family Services-Poverty Reduction, Iqaluit, Canada

since  2010: Creative Writing Workshops at Goethe-Universität

2007  to 2013: M.A. in American Studies and Cultural Anthropology at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

2010  to 2012: Teaching Assistant for Anthropology of Religion/Introduction to Material Culture

2011 to 2012: Scholarship „Deutschlandstipendium“, Federal Ministry of Education and Research

2009  to 2010: Graduate Studies at University of Massachusetts, Amherst

2009: DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Fellowship for Study Abroad

2005  to 2006: Liberal Arts at State College of Florida, Bradenton


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