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Editor's Column "Psychiatry and Literature." Facing those three words on a blank page, I am inclined to comment on the conjunction instead of the nouns. Both psychiatry and literature have been often discussed, defined, anatomized—and the last word is certainly not yet said. Nevertheless, the concern of this fourth volume of Literature and Medicine is not so much with what matters the disciplines of literature or psychiatry may comprehend or what methods best treat those matters as with the nature of the fields' conjunction, that "and." Try to visualize the connection. It is less a trim bridge between neatly fenced domains than something multiple, flexible, intricate, now clear and now messy, part snare and part masterpiece: a web, in a word. And that web is of words. Its substance is human thought put into human language. In their different ways, the contributors to this volume show us new things about the web: its knots, patterns, beauties, deceptions, makers, and victims. The essays here collected could have been arranged in a number of ways. What I have done is to present first those engaging literature most widely and theoretically, then those stressing specific interpretation of literary works. Somehow the volume seems to fall, as many things since Caesar's Gaul have done, into three parts. We begin with two essays speculating on issues interesting to medical and literary communities alike. Thomas Szasz takes up the matter of intention in "Intentionality and Insanity: Some Lessons from Reflections on Art." Szasz discusses the mysterious, perhaps fabricated rather than innate connection between madness and art—the first habitually seen as quintessentially non-intentional, the other as quite the reverse—and argues that psychiatry can adequately decipher neither. In "Poetry and Schizophrenia" psychiatrist Ronald William Pies incisively examines a range of writings, published and not published , famous and obscure. Pies's analysis shows the points of contact and differences between the artist's metaphor and the schizophrenic's private language. The largest group of essays in Psychiatry and Literature centers on mental illness and psychiatric treatment as they have shaped the Xl writing of particular authors. These five essays appear in chronological order according to their subjects. First is Dr. WuUam B. Ober's "Margery Kempe: Hysteria and Mysticism Reconciled." As diagnostician and historian, Ober appraises the autobiographical narrative of a fifteenth -century Christian mystic in whose ecstatic experiences he finds evidence of psychotic symptoms and effective self-therapy. From a poet's vantage point, Elizabeth Sewell takes up issues raised by Szasz and Pies in her essay "Poetry and Madness, Connected or Not?—and the Case of Hölderlin." Sewell, whose essay contains her own fresh translations from the German, meditates on the possible relations between "the lunatic, the lover, and the poet" with particular reference to the great Romantic Friedrich Hölderlin, who was confined as incurably insane for the last half of his 72-year life. A better known if briefer confinement furnishes the subject of Andrew J. Kappel's "Psychiatrists , Paranoia, and the Mind of Ezra Pound." Drawing his evidence from biography, memoirs, and Pound's Cantos, Kappel argues that Pound's psychiatrists did not trump up an insanity defense to shelter a sane man from the legal consequences of treason but correctly recognized the symptoms of paranoia and helped ease an ailing mind of its self-imposed burden. Pound's one-time fiancée and long-time friend and fellow Imagist(e) Hilda Doolittle has recently gained the critical and biographical attention she merits in her own right; and Nora Crow Jaffe both draws on and contributes to this renascence in " 'She herself is the writing': Language and Sexual Identity in H.D.." Jaffe's thorough account of the poet's psychoanalysis with Freud examines the limitations and rewards, both personal and artistic, of the "collaboration"—for so creative a meeting of two such distinguished minds can, I think, be called by no other term. "Poetry from the Asylum: Hayden Carruth's The Bloomingdale Papers" concludes the middle part of the collection and brings us to the present with a critical study of a living, writing poet. Here Lillian Feder, author of Madness in Literature, surveys a group...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6571
Print ISSN
0278-9671
Pages
pp. xi-xiii
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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