Revels in Madness: Insanity in Medicine and Literature

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University of Michigan Press, Dec 22, 2009 - Literary Criticism - 368 pages
"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.

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Part 1 Madness from Hippocrates to Hölderlin
Part 2 The Modernity of Madness
Madness between History and Neurology

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Page 210 - La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles; L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers. Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité, Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté, Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.
Page 118 - We nobly take the high priori road, And reason downward, till we doubt of God : Make Nature still encroach upon his plan; And shove him off as far as e'er we can : Thrust some mechanic cause into his place; Or bind in matter, or diffuse in space.
Page 302 - Much madness is divinest sense To a discerning eye; Much sense the starkest madness. 'Tis the majority In this, as all, prevails. Assent, and you are sane; Demur, - you're straightway dangerous, And handled with a chain.
Page 80 - Seems, madam ! nay, it is ; I know not ' seems.' 'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother, Nor customary suits of solemn black...
Page 81 - What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff That beetles o'er his base into the sea, And there assume some other horrible form, Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason And draw you into madness?
Page 177 - I, in this weak piping time of peace, Have no delight to pass away the time, Unless to spy my shadow in the sun And descant on mine own deformity; And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, To entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Page 221 - Je ne puis plus, baigné de vos langueurs, ô lames, Enlever leur sillage aux porteurs de cotons, Ni traverser l'orgueil des drapeaux et des flammes, Ni nager sous les yeux horribles des pontons.
Page 80 - Nor the dejected haviour of the visage, Together with all forms, modes, shows of grief, That can denote me truly: These, indeed, seem, For they are actions that a man might play : But I have that within, which passeth show; These, but the trappings and the suits of woe.

About the author (2009)

Allen Thiher is Curator's Professor of French in the Department of Romance Languages, University of Missouri. His other books include Words in Reflection and The Power of Tautology: The Roots of Literary Theory.

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