South West Minds Project

www.southwestminds.co.uk is a digital curation of authors and literature from the south west of England associated with various forms of mental issues.

The website is primarily navigated through a map containing pins to represent either authors who live in the south west and have mental issues such as depression, Alzheimer’s, etc. and literature set in the south west which also contains themes of mental illness such as autism and addiction. When clicked on, an information box appears which contains a brief summary of the author/literature’s connection to mental issues and a link to the author/piece of literature’s own section of the website.

For authors, this section contains a biography and a selection of essays on their works which explore the way the author’s mental issues have potentially influenced the text.

For works of literature set in the south west their section contains a plot summary of the book and a selection of essays on that book which consider in various ways the mental illness depicted within.

As this website maps novels from a specific part of the world, location is very important to this project, therefore I have decided to theme the essays that I have written for the website around the settings of the novels.

I will use crowdsourcing in order to find other authors and novels to add to the map. I will also use crowdsourcing to add further essays to the website.

I have chosen to create this project because, as a society we are becoming increasingly aware and understanding of mental issues. For example, Stephen Fry has used his celebrity status to improve our understanding of bipolar disorder. Best-selling non-fiction title The Reason I Jump has given us an insight into the world as seen by a boy with autism. Louis Theroux’s BBC documentaries, such as Drinking to Oblivion which considers life as an alcoholic, help to raise awareness of several mental issues through the medium of television. As such, I wanted to create a website that contributes to this awareness raising. I think that literature (novels, poems and plays) can be a great way to bring mental illness to a variety of people because so many different types of literature contain such themes. From Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, to Jacqueline Wilson’s The Illustrated Mum, the range of literature is so diverse. By including academic-style essays on such literature and the literature of these authors my website will provide another way to learn about and understand mental illness.

Whilst you can find examples of literature from all over the world that speak about mental issues, I have chosen to focus my project in on one area of England as I believe that this will help me to produce a more intimate and thoughtful website. If I were to open the site up to literature and authors from anywhere in the world there is the chance that it will feel too large to be able to navigate or appreciate properly. Also, it will take much longer for the website to accumulate a good amount of content per author/piece of literature as there will be so many examples. Additionally, by focusing on one smaller area I can highlight just how common mental issues are as the map already contains numerous pins. In the future this project could be applied to other areas of the country and, eventually, the world. For example, another website could be created called north-west minds which collates literature and authors from the north-west of England.