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Author: Anna Klambauer

Madness, in all its expressions, has equally fascinated and terrified human beings across the ages. This ambiguous relationship to insanity is clearly reflected in the cultural artefacts of a time, and, as Foucault discusses comprehensively, varies significantly in different cultural periods. Starting as an accepted phenomenon in medieval culture, madness is increasingly ostracised. By the dawn of the 19th century, insanity is firmly established as unnatural and amoral, an expression of unbridled passions and emotions, an irrationality that is to be avoided at all costs. What is, however, most remarkable in this period of time is that madness is increasingly linked to the female sex. Madwomen become a frequent trope in literature, and are ogled with equal measures of curiosity and disgust. Madness, or the origin of madness as a female malady, is thereby strongly linked not only to the stereotypical belief that women are the gender more prone to emotional extremes and irrational antics, but also to female sexuality. This connection between madness and gender can be clearly seen in Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel Jane Eyre. Not only does the eponymous heroine herself fall prey to temporary fits of madness, Rochester’s mad wife, Bertha Mason, is the (insane) epitome of female sexuality. It is her gendered madness in particular that is judged harshly under the dominant cultural paradigm and the Victorian gender norms respectively. Bertha’s madness is treated more mildly in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). In accordance with the 20th century medical turn with regards to madness, the novel treats Bertha sympathetically in an attempt to explain her (in)sane actions. A comparative analysis of these two novels does, therefore, not only illuminate two vastly different cultural paradigms, but also underscores the connection between gender, sexuality, and madness that still pervades the literary discourse today.

In: Schizo: The Liberatory Potential of Madness
In: Muses, Mystics, Madness: The Diagnosis and Celebration of Mental Illness
Author: Anna Klambauer

Madness in all its expressions has equally fascinated and terrified human beings across the ages. It is, therefore, unsurprising that madness has been a consistent topic of various cultural discourses and art-forms. Not only, however, is madness frequently represented in the arts, there also seems to be a connection between madness, imagination, and artistic geniality. The Hellenistic idea of the furor poeticus, a mixture of divine inspiration and poetic madness, marked only the beginning of this connection. The Romantic poets, for instance, abused substances to achieve altered states of mind - temporary madnesses - in order to reach greater heights of artistic prowess. The list of mad artists is abundant and includes names such as Vincent van Gogh and Sylvia Plath. Indeed, the connection between art and madness seems to be so self-evident that even Freud and Jung in their respective approaches to psychoanalysis described madness as a prerequisite for the artistic act. While madness and creativity is a thematic complex that is frequently explored in literature, Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Diary goes even further in its attempt to illustrate the connection. Not only is the protagonist of the novel, Misty, a failed artist, the text also skilfully blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction, between sanity and insanity. Everybody, characters and implied readers alike, seems to be insane, and when Misty returns to her art, inspiration comes at the cost of madness - a madness that simultaneously liberates and constrains her. While Misty finds new meaning in madness, she learns that not only is all art madness, but also that good art can result in it. Diary is, therefore, a prime example of the (fictional) exploration of the connection between art, inspiration, and madness that discusses the madness-art compound that has concerned so many authors in great depth.

In: Muses, Mystics, Madness: The Diagnosis and Celebration of Mental Illness
Editor: Anna Klambauer
This volume was first published by Inter-Disciplinary Press in 2016.

Madness – a word of many different meanings, a condition with the potential to destroy, harm, liberate, and inspire in equal measures. This volume explores madness from an inter-disciplinary perspective. It emphasises the need for improved psychological treatment as well as the necessity to enter a dialogue with madness. Apart from the potentially devastating impact mental illness might have on the patient, the positive side of madness is also explored. What if madness is a muse that inspires the artist to create a masterpiece? What if madness is a mystic who connects us to a greater, transcendental truth? What if madness is a mantle the frees us to speak our minds in a hostile environment that threatens to punish us for our deviant thoughts? It is this balancing act between creative and illuminating madness on the one, and destructive and harmful insanity on the other hand that this volume explores.
Author: Anna Klambauer

Abstract

The nineteenth century is, in many ways, the century of the madwoman. Not only does the madwoman become a prolific literary trope of the time, if compared to male patients, a disproportionate number of women was committed to the mental institutions of England. This gender imbalance can be attributed to various reasons. Firstly, the exploration of hysteria as a purely female malady begins to shape the perception of madness. Secondly, Victorian patriarchal prejudice claims that women are more prone to madness. Lastly, women were often proclaimed mad to enable their husbands to control both them as well as their fortunes. These factors led to a strong connection between madness and (female) resistance that persists, in a weaker form, to the present day. Moreover, these tendencies are explored thoroughly in the literature of the time, for instance in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Not only does the novel explore madness in various expressions, it also connects madness to the subversive female in form of Jane’s doubles. Madness, for the heroine, is a tentative means of empowerment, a way to resist that is also attempted by the madwoman in the attic, Bertha Mason. In Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, Bertha’s intertextual double Antoinette is reduced to madness as a result of the mistreatment she is subjected to. While all of these women are, at least temporarily, mad and resisting, the subversive quality of their madness varies significantly. While for some protagonists madness can indeed lead to empowerment, others are only afforded an illusion of power as a result of their madness-induced transgressions, a resistance that is immediately dismantled by the stigma of madness.

In: The Sense and Sensibility of Madness
In: The Sense and Sensibility of Madness
In: The Sense and Sensibility of Madness
In: The Sense and Sensibility of Madness
In: The Sense and Sensibility of Madness
This volume explores the intriguing ontological ambiguities of madness in literature and the arts. Despite its association with a diseased/abnormal mind, there can be much sense and sensibility in madness. Daring to break free from the dictates of normalcy, madwomen and madmen disrupt the status quo. Yet, as they venture into unchartered or prohibited terrain, they may also unleash the liberatory and transformative potential of unrestrained madness. Contributors are Doreen Bauschke, Teresa Bell, Isil Ezgi Celik, Terri Jane Dow, Peter Gunn, Anna Klambauer, Rachel A. Sims and Ruxanda Topor.