Theaters of Madness Insane Asylums and Nineteenth-Century American Culture

ISBN-10: 0226709647

ISBN-13: 9780226709642

Edition: 2008

Authors: Benjamin Reiss

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Description:

In the mid-1800s, a utopian movement to rehabilitate the insane resulted in a wave of publicly funded asylumsmany 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 Madnessexplores 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 culturefrom blackface minstrel shows to the works of William Shakespeareinto 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 Madnessprompts us to reflect on what our society can learn from a generation that urgently and creatively tried to solve the problem of mental illness.
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Book details

List price: $33.00
Copyright year: 2008
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 9/1/2008
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 240
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.25" long x 0.50" tall
Weight: 0.792
Language: English

Clare Virginia Eby is Professor of English at the University of Connecticut.Benjamin Reiss is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of English at Emory University.

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Sanative Culture
Brothers and Sisters of Asylumia: Literary Life in the New York State Lunatic Asylum
Saneface Minstrelsy: Blacking Up in the Asylum
Bardolatry in Bedlam: Shakespeare and Early Psychiatry
Emerson's Close Encounters with Madness
What's the Point of a Revolution?: Edgar Allan Poe and the Origins of the Asylum
Out of the Attic: Gender, Captivity, and Asylum Exposes
Epilogue: Echoes
Notes
Index
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