Luiza Lodder is a senior Paterno Fellow studying English with an enhanced minor in International Studies. As an international student from Brazil, she has developed a passion for learning languages, studying Arabic for two years and speaking French alongside her native Portuguese. Her interest in the overlap between psychology, human behavior, and literature culminated when she read Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and has not abated since.
The goal of her thesis is to explore the relation between language and popular perceptions of the mentally ill in contemporary century Western society by focusing on personal accounts of mental illness published within the past twenty years. She intends to focus her research on the language used by authors who have experienced mental illness first-hand and written about it in a non-medical or scientific context, so that the emphasis is placed on subjectivity and rhetoric rather than clinical approaches or observations. By adopting this literary lens, she hopes to examine the words these authors use to describe themselves, their condition, and their evaluations of how society has perceived them. In addition, she wants to tackle the broader question of how the language we use informs or affects concepts such as power and vulnerability; passion and reason; thought and emotion; mind and body. As an English major, she devised this project not only because it unites her field of study with her fascination for psychopathology, but because it will allow her to scope out the double-edged power of language in relation to a concept as complex and misunderstood as mental illness.