Madness and modernism

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Madness and modernism

Madness and modernism
By:"Louis Arnorsson Sass"
Published on 1992-08-28 by Basic Books

A stunning revelation of the eerie likeness between schizophrenic insanity and the sensibility of modern art, literature, and thought, Madness and Modernism presents a vivid and highly original portrait of the world of the madman, along with a provocative commentary on modernist and postmodernist culture. Sass, a clinical psychologist, explores the bizarre experiences of schizophrenia (and related conditions) through a comparison with the works of various artists and writers, including Franz Kafka, Paul Valery, Samuel Beckett, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Giorgio de Chirico, and Marcel Duchamp, and by considering the ideas of philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, William James, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. The similarities between madness and modernism are striking: defiance of authority and convention; an extreme, often dizzying relativism, which can culminate in paralysis; nihilism and all-embracing irony; a tantalizing, uncanny, but always frustrating sense of revelation; obliteration of standard forms of time and narrative; pervasive dehumanization; and disappearance of external reality in favor of the omnipotent ego or, alternatively, dissolution of all sense of selfhood. This rigorously argued, gracefully written book offers a startlingly new vision of schizophrenia, an illness long recognized as the greatest challenge to psychiatric or psychological understanding. Conventionally seen as a loss of rationality, perhaps involving a return to some infantile or bestial condition, schizophrenia, according to Sass, is better understood as, in a sense, a disease of hyperrationality, with detachment from action, emotions, and the body and entrapment in forms ofacute self-consciousness and heightened awareness. Sass refuses to romanticize the schizophrenic as a heroic rebel, mystic, or passionate Wildman, arguing instead that this condition echoes many of the most alienating aspects of modern life. In an epilogue and appendix, he considers whether modern culture might actively contribute to the genesis or shaping of schizophrenic forms of pathology, and he discusses the possible role of abnormalities of the brain.

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