The Foundations of Psychiatry

By Silvano Arieti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 47

LITERATURE AND PSYCHIATRY

Leon Edel

THE COMMON GROUND of literature and psychiatry is the world of irrational being: that is, the study of humans prone to a wildness of the imagination beyond the experiences of everyday life and "the usual"—and an acting out of this irrationality. As psychiatry has addressed itself from the first—from ancient times—to the study and treatment of mental states, so literature has depicted them with great imaginative power. We need only remind ourselves of the passionate and prophetic Cassandra and the horror of her visions; the violence of Lear's rage at the moment of the disintegration of his world; the sleepwalking and madness of Lady Macbeth; or the eternal question of Hamlet's sanity. Nor should we forget Dostoevsky's "idiot" or, in modem times, William Faulkner's empathic portrayal of a mental defective. These are literary cases that not only reveal an intense and powerful observation of mental states; they also represent remarkable intuitive understanding by artists of the workings of the distraught mind. As such, literature has provided verbal pictures of the very stuff—the human stuff—in which psychiatry deals.

Traditionally poets have been considered mad. In their transcendent visions, and in their use of symbolic language, they seem to talk in fables and mysteries. They have been regarded, like Cassandra, as irrational but also as gifted with extraordinary insight. Out of this was born, long ago, the observation of the "daemonic" in man. The individual as one "possessed," facing priests and doctors who must drive out the devils, is a familiar figure in the old dramas, both religious and secular.

Literature has helped establish mythic archetypes, that is, supreme examples, for varieties of mental being and has made psychiatrists aware of mental states beyond those they encounter in daily practice. Medical literature, moreover, contains examples of healers who have themselves been imaginative writers and have recorded for us the mysteries of madness, whether in the sparse annals of primitive societies, the lore of witchcraft and demonology, the occult of the Middle Ages, or the theories of mental being during the Age of Reason—when the "unreasoning" began to be shut away from society. We must remember that The Rake's Progress ends up in Bedlam. It was perhaps no accident also that the celebrated Jean Martin Charcot, teacher of both

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Foundations of Psychiatry
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 1270

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.