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Author, law professor and alumna Elyn Saks to speak at Vanderbilt; Her book The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness was one of Time magazine’s ‘Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2007’

Feb. 27, 2008, 3:14 PM

Elyn Saks returns to her alma mater, Vanderbilt University, on Thursday, March 20, at Ingram Hall at the Blair School of Music.

Saks was a Founder’s Medalist at Vanderbilt and Marshall Scholar at Oxford University before getting her law degree from Yale. She also suffers from schizophrenia that has caused her to experience wild hallucinations, debilitating paranoia and violent psychotic breaks.

Her latest book, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, is a clear-eyed portrait of a brilliant mind run off the rails and one of Time magazine’s “Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2007.”

“People hear of schizophrenia, and they think someone is never going to be able to live independently and work,” says Saks. “And then you have people like me who stand up and say, ‘No, it doesn’t have to be that way.'”

Saks will speak on “Transcending Schizophrenia: From Vanderbilt Founder’s Medalist to Hospital to Law Professor.”

Saks is training to be a psychoanalyst and specializes in mental health law, criminal law and children and the law. Her recent research focused on ethical dimensions of psychiatric research and forced treatment of the mentally ill.

She teaches mental health law, mental health law and the criminal justice system and advanced family law: The rights and interests of children. She also teaches at the Institute of Psychiatry and the Law at the Keck School of Medicine at USC and is an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. In her capacity as associate dean, Saks oversees research and grants at USC Law.

Saks’ recent publications include Refusing Care: Forced Treatment and the Rights of the Mentally Ill (University of Chicago Press, 2002), Interpreting Interpretation: The Limits of Hermeneutic Psychoanalysis (Yale University Press, 1999), and Jekyll on Trial: Multiple Personality Disorder and Criminal Law (with Stephen H. Behnke, New York University Press, 1997).

The event will begin at 6 p.m., preceded by a complimentary reception at 5 p.m. in Ingram Hall at The Blair School of Music. This event is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required, but seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-seated basis. Parking will be available in South Garage at 24th Avenue South and Children’s Way.

A Web cast will be available after the event on VUCast, Vanderbilt’s news network,

The speech is part of the 2007-2008 Chancellor’s Lecture Series. The Chancellor’s Lecture Series serves to bring to Vanderbilt and the wider Nashville community intellectuals who are shaping the world today. For more information about the Chancellor’s Lecture Series, visit

Media Contact: Missy Pankake, (615) 322-NEWS