The loss of reason, a sense of alienation from the commonsense world we all like to imagine we inhabit, the shattering emotional turmoil that seizes hold and won’t let go—these are some of the traits we associate with madness. Today, mental disturbance is most commonly viewed through a medical lens, but societies have also sought to make sense of it through religion or the supernatural, or by constructing psychological or social explanations in an effort to tame the demons of unreason. Madness in Civilization traces the long and complex history of this affliction and our attempts to treat it.
Beautifully illustrated throughout, Madness in Civilization takes readers from antiquity to today, painting a vivid and often harrowing portrait of the different ways that cultures around the world have interpreted and responded to the seemingly irrational, psychotic, and insane. From the Bible to Sigmund Freud, from exorcism to mesmerism, from Bedlam to Victorian asylums, from the theory of humors to modern pharmacology, the book explores the manifestations and meanings of madness, its challenges and consequences, and our varied responses to it. It also looks at how insanity has haunted the imaginations of artists and writers and describes the profound influence it has had on the arts, from drama, opera, and the novel to drawing, painting, and sculpture.
Written by one of the world’s preeminent historians of psychiatry, Madness in Civilization is a panoramic history of the human encounter with unreason.
Andrew Scull is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego. His books include Hysteria: The Disturbing History, Madhouse: A Tragic Tale of Megalomania and Modern Medicine, and Masters of Bedlam: The Transformation of the Mad-Doctoring Trade (Princeton). He lives in La Jolla, California.
"A wonderful book, fascinating and beautifully written, with Scull’s usual verve and erudition. Madness in Civilization explores how ancient and medieval societies coped with psychosis and shows that, brain imaging and psychotropic drugs notwithstanding, modern psychiatry has much to learn from these societies."--Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind
"An engaging, learned, and wonderfully thought-provoking history of human efforts to understand and manage those behaviors we call mad. An uncommon combination of learning and accessible writing, Scull’s admirable book is a must-read for anyone interested in this ‘most solitary of afflictions.’"--Charles Rosenberg, Harvard University
"In this engrossing book, Scull takes us from ancient Greece to the pharmacopoeias of today to give us the long view of how reason has understood and treated unreason. This is history at its best, scintillating in its detail and passionate about a subject that concerns us all."--Lisa Appignanesi, author of Trials of Passion: Crimes in the Name of Love and Madness
"Madness in Civilization is a brilliant, provocative, and hugely entertaining history of the treatment and mistreatment of the mentally ill. Packed with bizarre details and disturbing facts, Andrew Scull’s book offers fresh and compelling insights on the way medicine’s inability to solve the mystery of madness has both haunted and shaped two thousand years of culture. Required reading for anyone who has ever gone to a shrink!"--Dirk Wittenborn, author of Pharmakon
"Andrew Scull is the premier historian of psychiatry in the Anglophone world, and this book triumphantly demonstrates this. Taking a broad canvas, from antiquity to modernity, Scull dissects what madness has meant to societies throughout history and throughout the world. He writes with passion but humor, has a brilliant eye for a pungent quotation or a telling story, and holds the reader spellbound. This is a compelling book from a master of his craft."--William F. Bynum, coeditor of the Dictionary of Medical Biography
"Dr. Scull is one of the preeminent historians of psychiatry in the world today. There is almost no one else who could write a volume of this kind with the panache he brings to it, the ability to hold both a lay and an academic readership in thrall at the same time, and the sense of balance and proportion that comes to some with experience but to others not at all. There is no other volume comparable to this in scope and this is a once in a generation effort."--David Healy, author of Pharmageddon
"Andrew Scull is probably our most knowledgeable and certainly most readable historian of madness. In his new book, the magisterial Madness in Civilization, he presents a panoramic view of the subject that’s both clear-eyed and critical. Crisply written, and furnished with a wealth of cultural and clinical reference, this is a great, tragic story."--Patrick McGrath, author of Asylum
"A work of heroic scholarship, an eloquent overview of the changing theories and treatments of madness from ancient religion, medicine, and myth to contemporary neuroscience and psychopharmacology. Scull shows not only how writers, artists, and composers have taken madness as a muse, but also how the shifting symbolic forms of unreason are truly part of its history. Compendious and compassionate."--Elaine Showalter, professor emeritus, Princeton University, author of The Female Malady