Revels in madness : insanity in medicine and literature by Allen Thiher

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By Allen Thiher

"Fascinating and demanding . . . a piece of prodigious scholarship, protecting the full background of Western proposal and treating either literary and scientific discourses with subtlety and verve."
---Louis Sass, writer of Madness and Modernism

"The scope of this booklet is daunting, starting from insanity within the historical Greco-Roman global, to Christianized strategies of medieval folly, during the writings of early glossy authors reminiscent of Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Descartes, and directly to German Romantic philosophy, fin de siècle French poetry, and Freud . . . Artaud, Duras, and Plath."
---Isis

"This provocative and heavily argued paintings will present many readers."
---Choice

In Revels in Madness, Allen Thiher surveys a extraordinary variety of writers as he exhibits how conceptions of insanity in literature have mirrored the cultural assumptions in their period. Thiher underscores the transition from classical to trendy theories of madness-a transition that all started on the finish of the Enlightenment and culminates in contemporary women's writing that demanding situations the postmodern figuring out of insanity as a fall from language or as a disorder of culture.

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Revels in madness : insanity in medicine and literature

"Fascinating and critical . . . a piece of prodigious scholarship, overlaying the complete historical past of Western idea and treating either literary and clinical discourses with subtlety and verve. "---Louis Sass, writer of insanity and Modernism"The scope of this publication is daunting, starting from insanity within the historic Greco-Roman global, to Christianized strategies of medieval folly, during the writings of early sleek authors reminiscent of Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Descartes, and directly to German Romantic philosophy, fin de siècle French poetry, and Freud .

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Example text

Dance is mime, which is to say, it is madness in the service of the deviant body in motion. Dance, parodistic in The Wasps, centers on a body that parodies the gestures of body language. In this comedy, dance seems to correspond to the role of the destruction of the body enacted at the conclusion of a tragedy-as when Ajax commits self-destruction out of shame or Oedipus puts out his eyes in penitence for the involuntary act of seeing the truth. By contrast, in comedy's triumph, dance is a controlled alterity, a madness mastered through form, though madness nonetheless.

Today's textbook writers may well be envious when they note that editions of Galen's works were being used by students for some seventeen centuries or so. Galen was the doctor whom Christianity accepted as the touchstone of medical theorizing for some fifteen centuries. In many respects he is the most important link between the Greco-Roman world and later European civilization, and his views on insanity are central to any understanding of how the Western tradition came to construe madness. A continuator of the Hippocratic tradition, as I indicated earlier, Galen put humoral theory at the heart of his doctrine on madness.

For example, a late Renaissance writer like Robert Burton (1577-1640) continued, in his famous Anatomy of Melancholy, to describe madness in terms of the dichotomous point of view that was typical of the previous fifteen centuries of Christian puzzlement over madness. Is insanity a spiritual or a medical issue?

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