Mad?/Not Mad?

It's not as if I ever thought of Foucault as an actual historian, mind you. More of a Big Idea Man, Big Ideas that were welcome for their provocations more than their scholarship. That first English edition of Madness and Civilization didn't even have footnotes. And it's not as if Foucault were the only one casting a gimlet eye on psychiatry's claims of scientific accuracy and goodwill.

But in this Times Literary Supplement cannon blast against Routledge Classics' new, more complete translation, Andrew Scull argues vehemently that Foucault got England's Bethlem hospital (a.k.a. Bedlam) completely wrong, he cherry-picked his handful of outdated materials ("It is odd, to put it mildly, to rely exclusively on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholarship to examine the place of leprosy in the medieval world.") and he radically distorted the real history of madhouses to buttress his contention that the Enlightenment didn't empower human reason so much as shackle it.

Pretty convincing. It's almost enough to put you off French theorists.

March 22, 2007 3:19 PM |



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