Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age by Michel Foucault

By Michel Foucault

Might be the French philosopher's masterpiece, that is all for a unprecedented query: What does it suggest to be mad?

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Additional info for Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

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Accusing himself, he speaks the truth in spite of himself. In Melite, for example, all the stratagems the hero has accumulated to deceive others are turned against himself, and he becomes their first victim, believing that he is guilty of the deaths of his rival and his mistress. But in his delirium, he blames himself for having invented a whole series of love letters; the truth comes to light, in and through madness, which, provoked by the illusion of a denouement, actually resolves the real imbroglio of which it is both cause and effect.

But death itself does not bring peace; madness will still triumph —a truth mockingly eternal, beyond the end of a life which yet had been delivered from madness by this very end. " But very soon, madness leaves these ultimate regions where Cervantes and Shakespeare had situated it; and in the literature of the early seventeenth century it occupies, by preference, a median place; it thus constitutes the knot more than the denouement, the peripity rather than the final release. Displaced in the economy of narrative and dramatic structures, it authorizes the manifestation of truth and the return of reason.

BY a strange act of force, the classical age was to reduce to silence the madness whose voices the Renaissance had just liberated, but whose violence it had already tamed. It is common knowledge that the seventeenth century created enormous houses of confinement; it is less commonly known that more than one out of every hundred inhabitants of the city of Paris found themselves confined there, within several months. It is common knowledge that absolute power made use of lettres de cachet and arbitrary measures of imprisonment; what is less familiar is the judicial conscience that could inspire such practices.

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