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Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reasonby Michel Foucault
When I was immersed in a sea of literary criticism a few years ago, Foucault, more than anyone else, caught my attention. Looking deeply at the roots of our behavior and our cultural attitudes, his examination of different kinds of power and control is more than just fascinating it's extremely important in understanding how we might move our society forward. Madness and Civilization focuses, as the title implies, on the ways that insanity is constructed by culture, but it might not be what you'd expect. It is primarily a history and an exploration, rich in imagery and metaphor, and as such, it is intense, beautiful, and engaging. (I lent this book to a friend of mine, a medical student who reads very little nonfiction outside of class. He couldn't put it down.) From the original connection of madness to divinity, through the centuries of tighter and tighter control of the poor and eccentric as well as the catatonic, Foucault traces our reactions to madness and the impulses that guide them up until very recent times.
Synopses & Reviews
What does it mean to be mad? In Madness and Civilization, perhaps his masterpiece, Michel Foucault examines the archaeology of madness in the West from 1500 to 1800 — from the Middle Ages, when insanity was considered part of everyday life and fools and crazies walked the streets freely, to the time when such people began to be considered a threat, asylums were first built, and a wall was erected between the "insane" and the rest of humanity.
"Foucault's book belongs, both by reason of its content and its profundity, in the class of such treatises — at once historical, scientific, and ethical — as Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death." The New York Times Book Review
"Superb scholarship rendered with artistry."
-- The Nation
Perhaps the French philosopher's masterpiece, which is concerned with an extraordinary question: What does it mean to be mad?
About the Author
One of the leading intellectuals of the twentieth century and the most prominent thinker in post-war France, Foucault's work influenced disciplines as diverse as history, sociology, philosophy, sociology and literary criticism.
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