New review of the History of Madness

The California Literary Review today published a new review of the History of Madness.


From the mid-nineteenth century through the present we see a shift in the treatment of madness to the “asylum,” a metaphor suggesting a retreat from the “madness” of the world, and a restoration of those deracinated. By medicalizing madness, we presumably move from moral derision to scientific categories of etiology, nosology, and treatment plans. Psychiatry has its origins in the ancient world and noticeably may be found in the middle ages and the renaissance in the concept of the four humors, an imbalance of which—say black bile which produces melancholia—can presumably be adjusted. The classificatory impulse from Kraepelin and Bleuler and others continues to the present in the continuous revisioning of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which is the Bible of modern therapy and required by an insurance company in a neighborhood near you. Currently the DSM-IV-R (that is, fourth volume, revised, is no doubt being revised further). While Foucault leaves off his history with the nineteenth century, with only a nod toward Freud and company, one suspects that he would likely wish us to consider the history of this concept of “madness” and suspect that we, too, are bewitched by our own language, seduced by our metaphors, and will be subject to the scrutiny and dismay of our descendents.

It’s not bad, but nor is it a particularly detailed or insightful review. I was quite surprised to see that author, James Hollis, is a practicing Jungian analyst in Texas.


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