Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity, from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine
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The loss of reason, a sense of alienation from the common-sense world we all like to imagine we inhabit, the shattering emotional turmoil that can seize hold of some of us: these are a part of our shared human experience whatever culture we come from. Nowadays, mental disturbance is most commonly (though not always) viewed through a medical lens, but human beings have also always sought to make sense of the depredations of madness through invocations of the religious and the supernatural, or to construct psychological and social accounts in an effort to tame the demons of Unreason.
Through twelve chapters organized chronologically, from antiquity to today, from the Bible to Freud, from exorcism to mesmerism, from Bedlam to Victorian asylums, from the theory of humours to modern pharmacology, Andrew Scull writes compellingly of the manifestations of madness, its meanings, its consequences and our attempts to treat it.
history, and photographs of psychiatric patients were a source of great fascination to Darwin. Degeneration was invoked to explain far more than insanity alone. All the pathologies of modern life were laid at its door: prostitution, crime, delinquency, alcoholism, suicide, epilepsy, hysteria, feeble-mindedness, the physical deformation of many of the lower classes (in reality a result of want and malnutrition) – what could not be attributed to its ravages? It was a narrative that fed into
self-admitted limitations in French. He had brought with him Charcot’s emphasis on the somatic roots of hysteria, along with the use of hypnosis in its treatment. The former would remain central to his thinking till the late 1890s, when he grudgingly abandoned his grand ‘Project for a Scientific Psychology’, with its ambition to link the complexities of inner experience to basic neural processes. Hypnosis he had abandoned somewhat earlier. He had never mastered the technique, and his Viennese
Hack Tuke, 1878, p. 171. 33. Henry Maudsley, 1871, pp. 323–24. 34. Henry Maudsley, 1895, p. 30. 35. W. A. F. Browne, in Crichton Royal Asylum, 18th Annual Report, 1857, pp. 12–13. 36. S. A. K. Strahan, 1890, pp. 337, 334. 37. Max Nordau, 1893. Nordau’s book appeared in English in 1895 and enjoyed an international success, most notably for its denunciation of degenerate art and artists. 38. William Greenslade, 1994, p. 5. 39. Some modern scholars have called into question Nietzsche’s
research which this monograph reported had been undertaken more than a dozen years earlier and supported, not by the NIMH, but by Ohio’s State Division of Mental Diseases, presumably because of the fiscal burdens its mental hospitals represented, and the controversies then swirling about them. A complete draft of the report on this work was completed by June 1948, and appears largely unaltered as the 1960 publication. Having reported these facts (see pp. 260–61), the authors provide no
feet). But I cannot conceive of a man without thought; that would be a stone or a brute.30 And that, for those who thought about the ontological status of the mad, seemed to be the inescapable conclusion. Preaching a Spital sermon in 1718 – an annual appeal for charity for London’s poor – on behalf of ‘those unhappy People, who are bereft of the dearest Light, the Light of Reason’, the cleric Andrew Snape (1675–1742) spoke of how Distraction…divests the rational soul of all its noble and