Bad Souls is an ethnographic study of responsibility among psychiatric patients and their caregivers in Thrace, the northeastern borderland of Greece. Elizabeth Anne Davis examines responsibility in this rural region through the lens of national psychiatric reform, a process designed to shift treatment from custodial hospitals to outpatient settings. Challenged to help care for themselves, patients struggled to function in communities that often seemed as much sources of mental pathology as sites of refuge. Davis documents these patients' singular experience of community, and their ambivalent aspirations to health, as they grappled with new forms of autonomy and dependency introduced by psychiatric reform. Planned, funded, and overseen largely by the European Union, this "democratic experiment," one of many reforms adopted by Greece since its accession to the EU in the early 1980s, has led Greek citizens to question the state and its administration of human rights, social welfare, and education. Exploring the therapeutic dynamics of diagnosis, persuasion, healing, and failure in Greek psychiatry, Davis traces the terrains of truth, culture, and freedom that emerge from this questioning of the state at the borders of Europe.
Between Method and Madness: Essays on Swedenborg and Literature addresses the question of Emanuel Swedenborg’s (1688–1772) influence on literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection opens with a seminal essay by William Butler Yeats, a lyrical and critical masterpiece in which the Nobel Prize-winning poet reveals his breadth of lifelong philosophical and theosophical interests, framing them around the significant influence of Swedenborg. The collection also studies Swedenborg’s role in the birth and rise of the Symbolist movement and his influence upon Victorian poetry. The volume closes with an essay by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who views Swedenborg as a founding figure for the Spiritualist circles he himself advocated. This volume, the fourth in the Journal of the Swedenborg Society series, contains the following six essays:
• W. B. Yeats, “Swedenborg, Mediums and the Desolate Places”
• Gary Lachman, “The Spiritual Detective: How Baudelaire invented Symbolism, by way of Swedenborg, E. T. A. Hoffmann and Edgar Allan Poe”
• Adelheid Kegler, “Elements of Swedenborgian Thought in Symbolist Landscapes: with reference to Sheridan Le Fanu and George MacDonald”
• Richard Lines, “Eros and the Unknown Victorian: Coventry Patmore and Swedenborg”
• Gary Lachman, “Space: the Final Frontier. O. V. de Lubicz Milosz and Swedenborg”
• Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Story of Swedenborg”
Also included are a preface by Stephen McNeilly, a chronology of Swedenborg, biographies of the essay subjects, and an index.
Demons of the Night is a trove of haunting fiction—a gathering, for the first time in English, of the best nineteenth-century French fantastic tales. Featuring such authors as Balzac, Mérimée, Dumas, Verne, and Maupassant, this book offers readers familiar with the works of Edgar Allan Poe and E. T. A. Hoffman some of the most memorable stories in the genre. With its aura of the uncanny and the supernatural, the fantastic tale is a vehicle for exploring forbidden themes and the dark, irrational side of the human psyche.
The anthology opens with "Smarra, or the Demons of the Night," Nodier's 1821 tale of nightmare, vampirism, and compulsion, acclaimed as the first work in French literature to explore in depth the realm of dream and the unconscious. Other stories include Balzac's "The Red Inn," in which a crime is committed by one person in thought and another in deed, and Mérimée's superbly crafted mystery, "The Venus of Ille," which dramatizes the demonic power of a vengeful goddess of love emerging out of the pagan past. Gautier's protagonist in "The Dead in Love" develops an obsessive passion for a woman who has returned from beyond the grave, while the narrator of Maupassant's "The Horla" imagines himself a victim of psychic vampirism.
Joan Kessler has prepared new translations of nine of the thirteen tales in the volume, including Gérard de Nerval's odyssey of madness, "Aurélia," as well as two tales that have never before appeared in English. Kessler's introduction sets the background of these tales—the impact of the French Revolution and the Terror, the Romantics' fascination with the subconscious, and the influence of contemporary psychological and spiritual currents. Her essay illuminates how each of the authors in this collection used the fantastic to articulate his own haunting obsessions as well as his broader vision of human experience.
Jacqueline O’Connor examines how Tennessee Williams portrayed society’s treatment of the mentally ill. The critical approach is eclectic and the author draws on a variety of psychological, literary, and biographical sources.
From Madness to Mental Health neither glorifies nor denigrates the contributions of psychiatry, clinical psychology, and psychotherapy, but rather considers how mental disorders have historically challenged the ways in which human beings have understood and valued their bodies, minds, and souls.
Greg Eghigian has compiled a unique anthology of readings, from ancient times to the present, that includes Hippocrates; Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love, penned in the 1390s; Dorothea Dix; Aaron T. Beck; Carl Rogers; and others, culled from religious texts, clinical case studies, memoirs, academic lectures, hospital and government records, legal and medical treatises, and art collections. Incorporating historical experiences of medical practitioners and those deemed mentally ill, From Madness to Mental Health also includes an updated bibliography of first-person narratives on mental illness compiled by Gail A. Hornstein.
Brilliant and charismatic,
David Hyrum Smith was a poet, painter, singer, philosopher, naturalist,
and highly effective missionary for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Day Saints. In this richly detailed biography, Valeen Tippetts
Avery chronicles the life of the last son of Joseph Smith and his first
Avery draws on a large body
of correspondence for details of David's life and on his poetry to reveal
his personality and emotional struggles. She tells of his mental deterioration,
starting with a probable breakdown early in 1870 and ending with his death
in 1904 in the Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum for the Insane in
Elgin, where he had been confined for twenty-seven years.
"This is an astonishing
accomplishment which not only tells the reader about a neglected historical
figure, but about myriad neglected dimensions of both Mormon history and
the history of religion in general."
-- Jan Shipps, author of Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition
"This will stand alone
as a biography of David H. Smith. . . . But it is also an insightful look
at the times and environment from which the Smith family, and its ideas,
-- Paul M. Edwards, author of Our Legacy of Faith: A Brief History of the Reorganized Church
Jay Neugeboren and his brother, Robert, grew up in Brooklyn in the years following World War II. Both brothers—smart, talented, and popular—seemed well on the way to successful lives when, for reasons that remain ultimately mysterious to this day, Robert had a mental breakdown at age nineteen. For the past forty years Jay has been not only his brother’s friend and confidant, but his sole advocate, as Robert continues to suffer from the ravages of the illness that has kept him institutionalized for most of his adult life.
Imagining Robert tells the story of these two brothers and how their love for one another has enabled both to survive, and to thrive in miraculous, surprising ways. It is the most honest book yet on what it is like for the millions of families that must cope, day-by-day and year-by-year over the course of a lifetime, with a condition for which, in most cases, there is no cure. By never giving up hope and by valuing his brother’s uniqueness and humanity, Jay Neugeboren reveals how even the grimmest of lives can be sustained by the power of love.
A film based on Imagining Robert aired on PBS nationally in 2003. With a new afterword that brings readers up to date on Robert’s life, Rutgers University Press is pleased make this highly praised book with its inspiring story available once more to the public.
Throughout most of history, in China the insane were kept within the home and treated by healers who claimed no specialized knowledge of their condition. In the first decade of the twentieth century, however, psychiatric ideas and institutions began to influence longstanding beliefs about the proper treatment for the mentally ill. In The Invention of Madness, Emily Baum traces a genealogy of insanity from the turn of the century to the onset of war with Japan in 1937, revealing the complex and convoluted ways in which “madness” was transformed in the Chinese imagination into “mental illness.”
Focusing on typically marginalized historical actors, including municipal functionaries and the urban poor, The Invention of Madness shifts our attention from the elite desire for modern medical care to the ways in which psychiatric discourses were implemented and redeployed in the midst of everyday life. New meanings and practices of madness, Baum argues, were not just imposed on the Beijing public but continuously invented by a range of people in ways that reflected their own needs and interests. Exhaustively researched and theoretically informed, The Invention of Madness is an innovative contribution to medical history, urban studies, and the social history of twentieth-century China.
Through a dual engagement with the unconscious in psychoanalysis and Islamic theological-medical reasoning, Stefania Pandolfo’s unsettling and innovative book reflects on the maladies of the soul at a time of tremendous global upheaval. Drawing on in-depth historical research and testimonies of contemporary patients and therapists in Morocco, Knot of the Soul offers both an ethnographic journey through madness and contemporary formations of despair and a philosophical and theological exploration of the vicissitudes of the soul.
Knot of the Soul moves from the experience of psychosis in psychiatric hospitals, to the visionary torments of the soul in poor urban neighborhoods, to the melancholy and religious imaginary of undocumented migration, culminating in the liturgical stage of the Qur’anic cure. Demonstrating how contemporary Islamic cures for madness address some of the core preoccupations of the psychoanalytic approach, she reveals how a religious and ethical relation to the “ordeal” of madness might actually allow for spiritual transformation.
This sophisticated and evocative work illuminates new dimensions of psychoanalysis and the ethical imagination while also sensitively examining the collective psychic strife that so many communities endure today.
In the late 1970s, Barbara Taylor, then an acclaimed young historian, began to suffer from severe anxiety. In the years that followed, Taylor’s world contracted around her illness. Eventually, her struggles were severe enough to lead to her admission to what had once been England’s largest psychiatric institution, the infamous Friern Mental Hospital in North London.
The Last Asylum is Taylor’s breathtakingly blunt and brave account of those years. In it, Taylor draws not only on her experience as a historian, but also, more importantly, on her own lived history at Friern— once known as the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum and today the site of a luxury apartment complex. Taylor was admitted to Friern in July 1988, not long before England’s asylum system began to undergo dramatic change: in a development that was mirrored in America, the 1990s saw the old asylums shuttered, their patients left to plot courses through a perpetually overcrowded and underfunded system of community care. But Taylor contends that the emptying of the asylums also marked a bigger loss, a loss of community. She credits her own recovery to the help of a steadfast psychoanalyst and a loyal circle of friends— from Magda, Taylor’s manic-depressive roommate, to Fiona, who shares tips for navigating the system and stories of her boyfriend, the “Spaceman,” and his regular journeys to Saturn. The forging of that network of support and trust was crucial to Taylor’s recovery, offering a respite from the “stranded, homeless feelings” she and others found in the outside world.
A vivid picture of mental health treatment at a moment of epochal change, The Last Asylum is also a moving meditation on Taylor’s own experience, as well as that of millions of others who struggle with mental illness.
Throughout the history of European modernism, philosophers and artists have been fascinated by madness. Something different happened in Brazil, however, with the “art of the insane” that flourished within the modernist movements there. From the 1920s to the 1960s, the direction and creation of art by the mentally ill was actively encouraged by prominent figures in both medicine and art criticism, which led to a much wider appreciation among the curators of major institutions of modern art in Brazil, where pieces are included in important exhibitions and collections.
Kaira M. Cabañas shows that at the center of this advocacy stood such significant proponents as psychiatrists Osório César and Nise da Silveira, who championed treatments that included painting and drawing studios; and the art critic Mário Pedrosa, who penned Gestaltist theses on aesthetic response. Cabañas examines the lasting influence of this unique era of Brazilian modernism, and how the afterlife of this “outsider art” continues to raise important questions. How do we respect the experiences of the mad as their work is viewed through the lens of global art? Why is this art reappearing now that definitions of global contemporary art are being contested?
Learning from Madness offers an invigorating series of case studies that track the parallels between psychiatric patients’ work in Western Europe and its reception by influential artists there, to an analogous but altogether distinct situation in Brazil.
A man desperately tries to keep his pact with the Devil, a woman is imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband because of religious differences, and, on the testimony of a mere stranger, “a London citizen” is sentenced to a private madhouse. This anthology of writings by mad and allegedly mad people is a comprehensive overview of the history of mental illness for the past five hundred years-from the viewpoint of the patients themselves.
Dale Peterson has compiled twenty-seven selections dating from 1436 through 1976. He prefaces each excerpt with biographical information about the writer. Peterson's running commentary explains the national differences in mental health care and the historical changes that have take place in symptoms and treatment. He traces the development of the private madhouse system in England and the state-run asylum system in the United States. Included is the first comprehensive bibliography of writings by the mentally ill.
This book explores the challenges of applying disability theory and policy, including the social model of disability, to madness and distress. It brings together leading scholars and activists from Europe, North America, Australia, and India, to explore the relationship between madness, distress, and disability. Whether mental health problems should be viewed as disabilities is a pressing concern, especially since the inclusion of psychosocial disability in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This book will appeal to policy makers, practitioners, activists, and academics.
Many human beings have considered the powers and the limits of human knowledge, but few have wondered about the power that the idea of knowledge has over us. The Madness of Knowledge is the first book to investigate this emotional inner life of knowledge – the lusts, fantasies, dreams and fears that the idea of knowing provokes. There are in-depth discussions of the imperious will to know, of Freud’s epistemophilia, or love of knowledge, and the curiously insistent links between madness, magical thinking and the desire for knowledge. Steven Connor also probes secrets and revelations, quarreling and the history of quizzes and ‘general knowledge’, charlatanry and pretension, both the violent disdain and the sanctification of the stupid, as well as the emotional investment in the spaces and places of knowledge, from the study to the library. In an age of artificial intelligence, alternative facts and mistrust of truth, The Madness of Knowledge offers an opulent, enlarging and sometimes unnerving psychopathology of intellectual life.
The Madness of Mary Lincoln
Jason Emerson Southern Illinois University Press, 2012 Library of Congress E457.25.L55E46 2007 | Dewey Decimal 973.7092
In 2005, historian Jason Emerson discovered a steamer trunk formerly owned by Robert Todd Lincoln's lawyer and stowed in an attic for forty years. The trunk contained a rare find: twenty-five letters pertaining to Mary Todd Lincoln's life and insanity case, letters assumed long destroyed by the Lincoln family. Mary wrote twenty of the letters herself, more than half from the insane asylum to which her son Robert had her committed, and many in the months and years after.
The Madness of Mary Lincoln is the first examination of Mary Lincoln’s mental illness based on the lost letters, and the first new interpretation of the insanity case in twenty years. This compelling story of the purported insanity of one of America’s most tragic first ladies provides new and previously unpublished materials, including the psychiatric diagnosis of Mary’s mental illness and her lost will.
Emerson charts Mary Lincoln’s mental illness throughout her life and describes how a predisposition to psychiatric illness and a life of mental and emotional trauma led to her commitment to the asylum. The first to state unequivocally that Mary Lincoln suffered from bipolar disorder, Emerson offers a psychiatric perspective on the insanity case based on consultations with psychiatrist experts.
This book reveals Abraham Lincoln’s understanding of his wife’s mental illness and the degree to which he helped keep her stable. It also traces Mary’s life after her husband’s assassination, including her severe depression and physical ailments, the harsh public criticism she endured, the Old Clothes Scandal, and the death of her son Tad.
The Madness of Mary Lincoln is the story not only of Mary, but also of Robert. It details how he dealt with his mother’s increasing irrationality and why it embarrassed his Victorian sensibilities; it explains the reasons he had his mother committed, his response to her suicide attempt, and her plot to murder him. It also shows why and how he ultimately agreed to her release from the asylum eight months early, and what their relationship was like until Mary’s death.
This historical page-turner provides readers for the first time with the lost letters that historians had been in search of for eighty years.
Univeristy Press Books for Public and Secondary Schools 2013 edition
Although ecstasy has been explored in several Indian contexts, surprisingly little scholarship has been devoted to its central role in Bengali devotion. In The Madness of the Saints, June McDaniel undertakes the first comprehensive study of religious ecstasy in Bengal, examining the texts that describe it, the people who experience it, and the traditions that support it.
Christine Buci-Glucksmann’s The Madness of Vision is one of the most influential studies in phenomenological aesthetics of the baroque. Integrating the work of Merleau-Ponty with Lacanian psychoanalysis, Renaissance studies in optics, and twentieth-century mathematics, the author asserts the materiality of the body and world in her aesthetic theory. All vision is embodied vision, with the body and the emotions continually at play on the visual field. Thus vision, once considered a clear, uniform, and totalizing way of understanding the material world, actually dazzles and distorts the perception of reality.
In each of the nine essays that form The Madness of Vision Buci-Glucksmann develops her theoretical argument via a study of a major painting, sculpture, or influential visual image—Arabic script, Bettini’s “The Eye of Cardinal Colonna,” Bernini’s Saint Teresa and his 1661 fireworks display to celebrate the birth of the French dauphin, Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes, the Paris arcades, and Arnulf Rainer’s self-portrait, among others—and deftly crosses historical, national, and artistic boundaries to address Gracián’s El Criticón; Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo; the poetry of Hafiz, John Donne, and Baudelaire; as well as baroque architecture and Anselm Kiefer’s Holocaust paintings. In doing so, Buci-Glucksmann makes the case for the pervasive influence of the baroque throughout history and the continuing importance of the baroque in contemporary arts.
The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon is built around a bizarre historical event and an off-hand challenge. The event? In December 1840, nearly twenty years after his death, the remains of Napoleon were returned to Paris for burial—and the next day, the director of a Paris hospital for the insane admitted fourteen men who claimed to be Napoleon. The challenge, meanwhile, is the claim by great French psychiatrist Jean-Étienne-Dominique Esquirol (1772–1840) that he could recount the history of France through asylum registries.
From those two components, Laure Murat embarks on an exploration of the surprising relationship between history and madness. She uncovers countless stories of patients whose delusions seem to be rooted in the historical or political traumas of their time, like the watchmaker who believed he lived with a new head, his original having been removed at the guillotine. In the troubled wake of the Revolution, meanwhile, French physicians diagnosed a number of mental illnesses tied to current events, from “revolutionary neuroses” and “democratic disease” to the “ambitious monomania” of the Restoration. How, Murat asks, do history and psychiatry, the nation and the individual psyche, interface?
A fascinating history of psychiatry—but of a wholly new sort—The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon offers the first sustained analysis of the intertwined discourses of madness, psychiatry, history, and political theory.
The evidence at hand: an autobiography—complete with their mother’s edits—written by his brilliant and disturbingly religious sister; a story featuring actual childhood events, but published by his mother as fiction; the transcript of a hypnotherapy session from his adolescence; and perjured court documents hidden in a drawer for decades. These are the clues Robin Hemley gathers when he sets out to reconstruct the life of his older sister Nola, who died at the age of twenty-five after several years of treatment for schizophrenia. Armed with these types of clues, Hemley quickly discovers that finding the truth in any life—even one’s own—is a fragmented and complex task.
Nola: A Memoir of Faith, Art, and Madness is much more than a remembrance of a young woman who was consumed her entire life by a passion for finding and understanding God; it is also a quest to understand what people choose to reveal and conceal, and an examination of the enormous toll mental illness takes on a family. Finally, it is a revelation of the alchemy that creates a writer: confidence in the unknowable, distrust of the proven, tortuous devotion to the fine print in life, and sacrifice to writing itself as it plays the roles of confessor, scourge, and creator.
Upon its first release in 1998, Nola won ForeWord’s Book of the Year Award for biography/memoir, the Washington State Book Award for biography/memoir, and the Independent Press Book Award for autobiography/memoir.
Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies No. 64
Kinugasa Teinosuke’s 1926 film, A Page of Madness (Kurutta ichipeiji), is celebrated as one of the masterpieces of silent cinema. It was an independently produced, experimental, avant-garde work from Japan whose brilliant use of cinematic technique was equal to if not superior to that of contemporary European cinema. Those studying Japan, focusing on the central involvement of such writers as Yokomitsu Riichi and the Nobel Prize winner Kawabata Yasunari, have seen it as a pillar of the close relationship in the Taisho era between film and artistic modernism, as well as a marker of the uniqueness of prewar Japanese film culture.
But is this film really what it seems to be? Using meticulous research on the film’s production, distribution, exhibition, and reception, as well as close analysis of the film’s shooting script and shooting notes recently made available, Aaron Gerow draws a new picture of this complex work, one revealing a film divided between experiment and convention, modernism and melodrama, the image and the word, cinema and literature, conflicts that play out in the story and structure of the film and its context. These different versions of A Page of Madness were developed at the time in varying interpretations of a film fundamentally about differing perceptions and conflicting worlds, and ironically realized in the fact that the film that exists today is not the one originally released. Including a detailed analysis of the film and translations of contemporary reviews and shooting notes for scenes missing from the current print, Gerow’s book offers provocative insight into the fascinating film A Page of Madness was—and still is—and into the struggles over this work that tried to articulate the place of cinema in Japanese society and modernity.
Psychiatric Encounters presents an intimate portrait of a public inpatient psychiatric facility in the Southeastern state of Yucatan, Mexico. The book explores the experiences of patients and psychiatrists as they navigate the challenges of public psychiatric care in Mexico. While international reports condemning conditions in Mexican psychiatric institutions abound, Psychiatric Encounters considers the large- and small-scale obstacles to quality care encountered by doctors and patients alike as they struggle to live and act like human beings under inhumane conditions. Beatriz Mireya Reyes-Foster closely examines the impact of the Mexican state’s neoliberal health reforms on how patients access care and doctors perform their duties. Engaging with madness, modernity, and identity, Psychiatric Encounters considers the enduring role of colonialism in the context of Mexico's troubled contemporary mental health care institutions.
In 1833 Alexander Pushkin began to explore the topic of madness, a subject little explored in Russian literature before his time. The works he produced on the theme are three of his greatest masterpieces: the prose novella The Queen of Spades, the narrative poem The Bronze Horseman, and the lyric "God Grant That I Not Lose My Mind." Gary Rosenshield presents a new interpretation of Pushkin’s genius through an examination of his various representations of madness.
Pushkin brilliantly explored both the destructive and creative sides of madness, a strange fusion of violence and insight. In this study, Rosenshield illustrates the surprising valorization of madness in The Queen of Spades and "God Grant That I Not Lose My Mind" and analyzes The Bronze Horseman’s confrontation with the legacy of Peter the Great, a cornerstone figure of Russian history. Drawing on themes of madness in western literature, Rosenshield situates Pushkin in a greater framework with such luminaries as Shakespeare, Sophocles, Cervantes, and Dostoevsky providing an insightful and absorbing study of Russia’s greatest writer.
"Fascinating and important . . . a work of prodigious scholarship, covering the entire history of Western thought and treating both literary and medical discourses with subtlety and verve."
---Louis Sass, author of Madness and Modernism
"The scope of this book is daunting, ranging from madness in the ancient Greco-Roman world, to Christianized concepts of medieval folly, through the writings of early modern authors such as Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Descartes, and on to German Romantic philosophy, fin de siècle French poetry, and Freud . . . Artaud, Duras, and Plath."
"This provocative and closely argued work will reward many readers."
In Revels in Madness, Allen Thiher surveys a remarkable range of writers as he shows how conceptions of madness in literature have reflected the cultural assumptions of their era. Thiher underscores the transition from classical to modern theories of madness-a transition that began at the end of the Enlightenment and culminates in recent women's writing that challenges the postmodern understanding of madness as a fall from language or as a dysfunction of culture.
Singing the Chaos: Madness and Wisdom in Modern Poetry combines both a historical and a critical approach toward the works of major British, American, French, German, and Russian poets. Comprehensive in scope and arranged chronologically to survey a century of high poetic achievement, the study is unified by Pratt's overriding argument that "modern poets have endowed a disintegrating civilization with humane wisdom by 'singing the chaos' that surrounds them, making ours a great age in spite of itself."
In developing this central theme, Pratt brings alive the energy, the freshness, and the originality of technique that made Baudelaire, Pound, Yeats, Rilke, Eliot, and others the initiators of the revolution in poetry. He brings a more complete, clearer perspective to other major themes: modernism as an age of irony; poets as both madmen and geniuses; the modern poet as tragic hero; the dominance of religious or visionary truths over social or political issues; and the combination of radical experiments in poetic form with an apocalyptic view of Western civilization. His detailed treatment of the Fugitive poets and his recognition of their prominent role in twentieth-century literature constitute an important historical revision.
Brilliantly informed, insightful, and, above all, accurately sympathetic to the points of view of the poets Pratt presents, Singing the Chaos is that rare book that belongs on all shelves devoted to modernist poetry.
In the mid-1800s, a utopian movement to rehabilitate the insane resulted in a wave of publicly funded asylums—many of which became unexpected centers of cultural activity. Housed in magnificent structures with lush grounds, patients participated in theatrical programs, debating societies, literary journals, schools, and religious services. Theaters of Madness explores both the culture these rich offerings fomented and the asylum’s place in the fabric of nineteenth-century life, reanimating a time when the treatment of the insane was a central topic in debates over democracy, freedom, and modernity.
Benjamin Reiss explores the creative lives of patients and the cultural demands of their doctors. Their frequently clashing views turned practically all of American culture—from blackface minstrel shows to the works of William Shakespeare—into a battlefield in the war on insanity. Reiss also shows how asylums touched the lives and shaped the writing of key figures, such as Emerson and Poe, who viewed the system alternately as the fulfillment of a democratic ideal and as a kind of medical enslavement. Without neglecting this troubling contradiction, Theaters of Madness prompts us to reflect on what our society can learn from a generation that urgently and creatively tried to solve the problem of mental illness.
How do humans stop fighting? Where do the gods of myth come from? What does it mean to go mad? Mark R. Anspach tackles these and other conundrums as he draws on ethnography, literature, psychotherapy, and the theory of René Girard to explore some of the fundamental mechanisms of human interaction. Likening gift exchange to vengeance in reverse, the first part of the book outlines a fresh approach to reciprocity, while the second part traces the emergence of transcendence in collective myths and individual delusions. From the peacemaking rituals of prestate societies to the paradoxical structure of consciousness, Anspach takes the reader on an intellectual journey that begins with the problem of how to deceive violence and ends with the riddle of how one can deceive oneself.