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Madness: A Very Short Introduction [#279]
Madness: A Very Short Introduction [#279]
  • Provocative, entertaining and authoritative examination of a notorious condition
  • Wide-ranging account of the Western encounter with madness; incorporating political, social, literary, cultural, artistic, and scientific dimensions
  • Explores our responses to madness over the centuries

Madness is something that frightens and fascinates us all. It is a word with which we are universally familiar, and a condition that haunts the human imagination. Through the centuries, in poetry and in prose, in drama and in the visual arts, its depredations are on display for all to see. A whole industry has grown up, devoted to its management and suppression. Madness profoundly disturbs our common sense assumptions; threatens the social order, both symbolically and practically; creates almost unbearable disruptions in the texture of daily living; and turns our experience and our expectations upside down. Lunacy, insanity, psychosis, mental illness - whatever term we prefer, its referents are disturbances of reason, the passions, and human action that frighten, create chaos, and yet sometimes amuse; that mark a gulf between the common sense reality most of us embrace, and the discordant version some humans appear to experience. 
Social responses to madness, our interpretations of what madness is, and our notions of what is to be done about it have varied remarkably over the centuries. In this Very Short Introduction, Andrew Scull provides a provocative and entertaining examination of the social, cultural, medical, and artistic responses to mental disturbance across more than two millennia, concluding with some observations on the contemporary accounts of mental illness.


1: Madness unbound
2: Madness in chains
3: Madness confined
4: Madness and meaning
5: Madness denied
6: Madness cast out
Further Reading

About the author: 

Andrew Scull has held faculty positions at the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and the University of California, where he is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Science Studies. He is a past president of the Society for the Social History of Medicine, and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies. He is the author or editor of more than twenty books, many of them on the history of psychiatry in Britain and the United States. He has lectured on five continents, as well as making many media appearances on programmes dealing with mental health issues.

Product details

ISBN : 9780199608034

Andrew Scull
152 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Aug 2011
Very Short Introductions
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Madness: A Very Short Introduction [#279]

Madness: A Very Short Introduction [#279]

Madness: A Very Short Introduction [#279]