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Madness and Civilization. Chapter 1 Stultifera Navis. Challenge to historiography Did such ships exist? Significance to argument of text?. Bosch - The Ship of Fools. Chapter 2: The Great Confinement. Classical Period Begins. Meaning of madness, treatment of mad shifts.

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chapter 1 stultifera navis
Chapter 1 Stultifera Navis
  • Challenge to historiography
  • Did such ships exist?
  • Significance to argument of text?

Bosch - The Ship of Fools

Chapter 2: The Great Confinement

Classical Period Begins

  • Meaning of madness, treatment of mad shifts.
  • Madness is related to idleness.
  • Thus, madness becomes an economic and moral issue.
  • Thus it requires punishment.
  • Punishment is informed by opportunities for economic exploitation/advantage, moral condemnation, and religious ideas (the mad are cast as the Fallen)
  • Introduction of morality via economic issues has lasting affects on treatment of mad and the relationship between mad and society.


Chapter 3: The Insane
  • Enclosing of people mirrors enclosure of land
  • Mad lack what is most human to classical mind – reason
  • Thus can be treated as animals


Chapter 4: Passion and Delirium

Madness, logic, and language.

  • The mad often demonstrate unique use of language and logic which has the potential to:
  • test boundaries of language and logic.
  • distort language and logic in unique ways.
  • express its own unique logic and truth.

M. Foucault

Chapter 5: Aspects of Madness
  • Transition from moral to medical
  • Humors and common sense
Chapter 6: Doctors and Patients

Shift towards more humane, scientific approach to treatment.

  • Nonetheless, new approach is still rooted in religious notions of punishment and redemption.
  • Cure focuses on the bodies of the mad.
  • Water cure recalls baptism.
  • Other cures: deliberately inflected skin disease, bleedings, baths, and purges, theatrical representation.


Chapter 7: The Great Fear
  • Foucault returns to literary analysis
  • 18th Century fear of contamination
  • Diderot, DeSade, Holderlin, Nerval, Nietzsche

Marquis De Sade

Chapter 8: The New Division

Early 19th century, calls for reforms.

  • Physicians, theorists propose
  • confinement be reduced to those who are a danger to themselves and society.
  • relocation of patients from jails to hospitals
  • However, hospitals to treat the mad do not yet exist.

Goya – “The Sleep of Reason

Chapter 9: The Birth of the Asylum
  • Techniques/practices of early psychiatric reformers: Tuke, Pinel
  • Descriptions contrast with perceived message of book
  • Foucault and “antipsychiatry”
Concluding Chapter and Beyond:

The relationship between art and madness

Goya – “The Madhouse”

The art of the mentally ill:
  • Outsider Art, Intuitive Art, Art Brut
  • Often demonstrates an unawareness of conventional notions of technique and aesthetics.
  • Exists outside of lineage, contemporary community
  • Reflects unique perspective, condition of artist
Madness, transgression, and art

- Transgression:

Exploring the boundaries of conventional notions of morality and truth.

- Examples in literature:

Bataille, Genet, Artaud, etc.

- Resonates with Foucault:

Foucault writes: “madness has become mans possibility for abolishing both man and the world….it is the last recourse: the end and beginning of everything…it is the ambiguity of chaos and the apocalypse” (F 281).

Foucault and Artaud:

- Foucault’s thoughts on madness as ‘the end and beginning of everything’ resonate with Artaud’s writing, particularly his essay, “No More Masterpieces,” in which Artaud declares:

- Reverence for the past works of art serves to imprison the art of today and the art to come.

- The phenomena of masterpieces alienates art from the public via its ‘superstitious’ reverence for texts.

- If the public finds a given masterpiece irrelevant and incomprehensible, it is not the fault of the public, but the fault of the work itself and system in which such works are defied.

Both Foucault and Artaud see conventional notions of psychology as an obstruction to the potential of art and creativity.
  • Artaud holds psychology accountable for “..working relentlessly to reduce the unknown to the known,” (Artaud 77).
  • - Artaud declares theater must go beyond psychological concerns such as woes over social careerism, money and love.
Both Foucault and Artaud see the dislocating experience of madness as potentially productive, capable of yielding unique insights. Artaud seeks an art which mirrors the experience of madness.

- Artaud proposes a theater which confronts its audience in visceral and disorientating way, a theater which he likens to lava in a volcanic explosion.

Madness as inspiration: an example
  • Rafael Alberti “Concerning the Angels”
  • - Background:
    • Among the “generation of 27”
    • Written during a depressive episode brought on by a failed love affair and the suicide of a friend.

- Alberti’s description of the writing process

- Alberti discusses ways in which his mental state dictated his writing style and process


Evil or good angels,

I don’t know which,

hurled you into my soul.


without furniture or sleeping space,


Intrepidly, the wind wounds

the walls,

the finest panes of glass.

Dampness. Chains. Cries.

Wind guests.

I ask you:

when you leave the house,

tell me

which evil, which cruel angels

will want to rent it again?

Tell me.

From “Concerning the Angels,” by Rafael Alberti.

Concluding Thoughts

How does Foucault’s Madness and Civilization

apply to Library Science?

  • Speaks to nature of classification in general, specifically:

The potential for cultural perspective and/or cultural bias to inform the ways in which knowledge or information is classified, structured, limited, and interacted with.