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Manic Minds

Mania's Mad History and Its Neuro-Future

Lisa M Hermsen

Publication Year: 2011

From its first depictions in ancient medical literature to contemporary depictions in brain imaging, mania has been largely associated with its Greek roots, "to rage." Prior to the nineteenth century, "mania" was used interchangeably with "madness." Although its meanings shifted over time, the word remained layered with the type of madness first-century writers described: rage, fury, frenzy. Even now, the mental illness we know as bipolar disorder describes conditions of extreme irritability, inflated grandiosity, and excessive impulsivity.

Spanning several centuries, Manic Minds traces the multiple ways in which the word "mania" has been used by popular, medical, and academic writers. It reveals why the rhetorical history of the word is key to appreciating descriptions and meanings of the "manic" episode." Lisa M. Hermsen examines the way medical professionals analyzed the manic condition during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and offers the first in-depth analysis of contemporary manic autobiographies: bipolar figures who have written from within the illness itself.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiii

When Larry King interviewed Terminator star Linda Hamilton on CNN’s Larry King Live in 2005, he described her as living “a private hell that drove her to drugs, hallucinations, and violent rages.” On the show, he promised, she would reveal “how she escaped bipolar disorder, the horror that torments millions.” ...

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Introduction: Mania’s Mad History and Its Neuro-Future

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pp. 1-12

I showed up for my intake interview on Halloween 2003 as an obvious, almost clichéd, figure of madness. I had been performing a kind of madness in various ways for years with deliberate imprecision. I wasn’t actually crazy all the time or everywhere. There was little clarity or rigor—no method to my madness. ...

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1. Mania Multiplies with Fury

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pp. 13-36

French psychiatrist Etienne Esquirol (1772–1840), once known as “the crown prince of reformed psychiatry,” is still the figure credited in the history of psychiatry with inventing the first modern classification of psychiatric disorders.1 Esquirol emphasized the importance of observation in case reports, ...

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2. The Maniac and the Iconography of Reform

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pp. 37-63

Definitions of mania that traveled out of textbooks and into asylum reports in the first years of the nineteenth century created the most famous iconography of the maniac and his “liberation” out of the dungeon and from his chains. Tales of violent maniacs brought to their reason, calmed without resort to ...

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3. Midwestern Mania: Genetics in the Heartland

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pp. 64-80

In the asylum, madness was transmittable, mania inherited, and chronic mental illness incurable. Mania could be transferred, at least in the sense that the sufferer would badly influence the quieter and calmer class of patients, and so must be confined. The rhetoric of inheritance as cause for mania justified ...

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4. Manic Lives: Mad Memoirs

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pp. 81-97

Mania has been recognized by physicians from the first century to the twenty-first century as both general madness and a form of madness with unique qualities. But no medical account can describe adequately what those who suffer mania experience. No description of mania in textbooks or asylum reports, ...

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5. Neuropsychiatry, Pharmacology, and Imaging the New Mania

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pp. 98-116

If madness was medicalized in the nineteenth century—by the classification of mania as mental illness—it has been technologized in the twenty-first century by neuroimaging techniques and neuropharmaceutical entities that offer what may be more accurate means of diagnosing mental illness and discovering better treatment ...

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Epilogue: A Mad, Mad World

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pp. 117-122

Medical historians have noted that it was customary to describe the nineteenth century as “the nervous century.”1 The clinical term for “the nerves” was “neurasthenia,” a condition marked by fatigue, headaches, indigestion, listlessness, and impoverished sexual activity. George Beard, member of the College of Physicians, ...


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pp. 123-136


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pp. 137-146


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pp. 147-154

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About the Author

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pp. 155

Lisa M. Hermsen is an associate professor and chair of the Department of English at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she teaches courses in the rhetoric of science and the history of madness. Manic Minds was developed at the Philadelphia Library Company, where Hermsen received a fellowship ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813552033
E-ISBN-10: 0813552036
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813551579

Page Count: 172
Illustrations: 12 photographs
Publication Year: 2011