Herschel Prins, Loughborough University & University of Birmingham, has published Mental Disorder, Criminality and the Literary Imagination at 53 Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 290 (2014).
This contribution attempts to explore the use of a variety of literary sources as aids or ‘prompts’ to understanding those offenders and offender‐patients whose mental states often raise considerable anxieties in those charged with their management. The word ‘prompt’ is borrowed from the work of my friend, the late doctor Murray Cox, and his co‐worker Alice Theilgaard in their seminal work Shakespeare as Prompter (1994). The author of the present article hopes that its content will enable readers to focus more clearly on why we sometimes fail our offenders and offender‐patients; in particular, through the mechanism of denial. The use of dramatic presentation when proffered with a unique blend of force and sensitivity can permit us to view puzzlement and horror from a safe distance and, at the same time, encourage us to increase our empathic understanding and professional practice. Most of the examples cited are brief allusions but, because her history is so compellingly applicable to our concerns in the present contribution, the ‘case’ of Lady Macbeth is considered in more detail. Finally, I would note some very wise words by Cox and Theilgaard (1994) in a caveat note to the reader: ‘Should the focus on therapy ever become occluded by preoccupation with poetic association, clinical skills would be diminished, distraction ensue and therapeutic contact deteriorate’ (not numbered). In the material that follows readers should bear such a cautionary note in mind.The full text is not available from SSRN.