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Madness Itself: the Real Story

  • Allan Ingram
  • Michelle Faubert

Abstract

The search for ‘madness itself’, for ‘really’ knowing what madness is, or was, or will be, for the ‘truly insane’, in language, in appearance, in art, in behaviour, or for what I refer to earlier as ‘the wholeness of contemporary insanity’, is long, teasing and irresistible, as peopled by look-alikes as the fields of Troy, as strewn with casualties, as lined by mirrors as any dressing-room or picture gallery, and as encumbered by ham performances as any eighteenth-century stage or inn. Carrying conviction, Garrick-like, or arresting or moving the viewer, like Fuseli or Gillray, takes us some way, but only as far as the conventions of an artistic mode allow, albeit conventions that in Garrick’s case were being rewritten through the medium of his career. Disbelief may be willingly suspended, but we are still faced with what is at bottom a performance, either of lines on a page that get up and speak or of crafting with colour, shape and movement. If these are ‘madness itself’, then they are so only because we recognise the deceptions of these forms and agree to take them as truth. Can we, therefore, only ‘really’ know what madness was through the medium of an art? Is the ‘representation’ that is already a ‘representation’ in fact all that there is, the only way in which this particular ‘illness’, which we join in calling ‘madness’, can be shared and essentially known? Is an understanding of ‘disease’ the best we can do?

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Cultural Construction Artistic Mode Tender Thought Real Story 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    William Cowper, Memoir of the Early Life of William Cowper, Esq. (1816) in Dale Peterson (ed.), A Mad People’s History of Madness, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982, p. 73.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    George Trosse, The Life of the Reverend Mr George Trosse (1714), ed. A.W. Brink, Montreal and London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1974, p. 107.Google Scholar
  3. 21.
    On this, see Dale Peterson’s prefatory remarks to his extracts from Perceval’s A Narrative of the Treatment Experienced by a Gentleman, During a State of Mental Derangement (1838, 1840) in A Mad People’s History of Madness, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982, pp. 92–6.Google Scholar
  4. 25.
    Roy Porter, A Social History of Madness: Stories of the Insane, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987, p. 185.Google Scholar
  5. 27.
    George Crabbe, The Poor of the Borough: Peter Grimes (1810), in George Crabbe: Tales, 1812 and other selected poems, ed. Howard Mills, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967, pp. 106–15.Google Scholar
  6. 28.
    Felix Pryor, who discovered and first published the poem, argues that it was most likely to have been begun by March and ‘more or less finished by 25 November 1822’. See George Crabbe, The Voluntary Insane, ed. Felix Pryor, London: Richard Cohen Books, 1995, p. 37.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Allan Ingram 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allan Ingram
  • Michelle Faubert

There are no affiliations available

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