The Madness of Epic: Reading Insanity from Homer to Statius

By Debra Hershkowitz | Go to book overview

1
Introduction: Fragments d'un Discours Furieux

Modern and Ancient Models of Madness

Quis furor . . . ? What is madness?

There is no one simple definition, as even those who have built their profession on its study are forced to admit. The fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM-IV) begins by noting that 'Although this manual provides a classification of mental disorders, it must be admitted that no definition adequately specifies precise boundaries for the concept of "mental disorder" . . .'. 1 Yet this difficulty in definitional precision has not, of course, prevented people (including the authors of DSM-IV) from attempting to pin down the meaning of madness. These attempts generally take an aetiological form, and can be divided broadly into three groups, although there is, of course, a good deal of overlap between them.2 First are the neurobiological models, which seek the roots of disorder of the mind in dysfunctional mechanics of the body.3 These models, based on 'hard science' rather than the more abstract theorizing which characterizes the other groups, are tempting because they seem to offer the stability of empiricism, but detractors -- most notably and vociferously, Szasz -- stress that they are, in fact, not based on empirical evidence at all, but rather on analogy: mental illness is like somatic illness, but it is not somatic illness, and to call it illness at all, according to Szasz, is to be using a metaphor.4

____________________
1
DSM-IV, p. xxi; the similar definition from the third edition is quoted by Szasz ( 1987), 67, and see 47-69 for a good albeit biased discussion of the difficulties of defining mental illness.
2
For a general overview, again somewhat biased in favour of the author's own theory, of modern theories of madness see Rosenberg ( 1992), 5-29.
4
For criticism of medical models cf. e.g. Szasz ( 1987), 69-97; M. Boyle ( 1990); and, less vehemently, Radden ( 1985), 14-27; Sass ( 1992), 374-97; Rosenberg ( 1992), 17-19; for madness as metaphor see Radden ( 1985), 17-18; Szasz ( 1987),

-1-

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The Madness of Epic: Reading Insanity from Homer to Statius
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oxford Classical Monographs i
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations and Texts xii
  • 1 - Introduction: Fragments D'Un Discours Furieux 1
  • 2 - Vergil's Aeneid: the Romans and the Irrational 68
  • 3 - Homeric Epic: the Greeks and the Rational? 125
  • 4 - Ovid's Metamorphoses: Shifting Boundaries of the Divided Self 161
  • 5 - Lucan's Bellum Ciuile: Epic in Extremis 197
  • 6 - Statius' Thebaid: Furor Without Limits 247
  • Epilogue 302
  • References 305
  • Index of Passages 333
  • General Index 343
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