What A Piece of Work by Dorothy Porter

What A Piece Of WorkWhat A Piece Of Work by Dorothy Porter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a portrait of a bad psychiatrist. He exploits his patients, conducts experimental therapy, and, all in all, What A Piece Of Work charges the psychiatrist to ‘heal thyself’.

Dr Peter Cyren smokes cigarettes while on duty, so perhaps the doctor’s god-complex belongs to another era, along with the critical R.D Laing anti-psychiatry perspective held by his lover, Fay.

Perhaps if I’d read What A Piece Of Work when it was first published in 1999, before literature and television had offered more complex portraits of psychiatrists and their methods, I would have appreciated the narrative and characterisation of Porter’s verse novel more; as it is, for me, it draws upon untenable stereotypes and misrepresentations of treatment–especially electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

That said, Porter’s portraits of Peter’s patients, Frank and Penny-Jenny, are true and compassionate, and give rise to the very best verse.

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About Kirsty Leishman

Currently enrolled in a Grad Dip of Teaching and Learning in anticipation of teaching English and Film, TV & New Media to high school students. Abandoned a PhD in television. Completed an MPhil on zines. Honours in Australian grunge literature. Long time university tutor of media, communications, cultural studies and academic writing. Opinionated. View all posts by Kirsty Leishman

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