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Reviews95 In spite of these problems, Widdowson's book has a polemical energy which is invigorating. It is the kind of book which is likely to stimulate much debate about Hardy's fiction, and it may well provide a basis for a new critical understanding of a writer who does not deserve to be swallowed by the National Heritage industry. Works Cited Beer, Gillian. George Eliot. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986. Ford, George H. Dickens and His Readers: Aspects of Novel Criticism Since 1836. New York: Norton, 1965. Widdowson, Peter, ed. Re-reading English. London and New York: Methuen, 1982. J. Russell Perkin Saint Mary 's University Marlene A. Arieno. Victorian Lunatics: A Social Epidemiology ofMental Illness in Mid-Nineteenth Century England. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna UP; London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1989. 140 pp. $26.50 US (cloth). This book proposes a legitimate re-evaluation of some of the questions basic to our understanding of the social organization of insanity in the nineteenth-century: namely, just who was being locked up, anyway, and why? According to scholars of the 1960s and seventies, beginning with Michel Foucault and including others such as Thomas Szasz and Andrew Scull, "the great confinement" or widespread institutionalization of the insane that began in the early modern "Age of Reason" represents a primarily ideologically motivated phenomenon: an attempt, orchestrated by the bourgeois state in concert with the nascent psychiatric profession, to rid society of its "unwanted," the indigent insane and hapless deviants useless in the market economy of mature capitalism. In the 1980s, however, medical historians such as Gerald Grob, and, now, Marlene A. Arieno, as well as others, have begun to critique the so-called "social control theorists," arguing that Foucault and the scholars who have followed directly in his wake have too categorically denied any legitimate 96Victorian Review basis or element of genuine humanitarianism in the process of modern psychiatric reform. They contend that by incorrectly attributing an overtly conspirational and imperialistic objective to the middle-class Victorian lunacy reformers, the "social control theorists have confused by-products of the reform process for its original intention, and that, moreover, by doing so, they have also inadvertently tended to cast the condition of madness in a conversely idealistic light, in highly abstract terms, as essentially a state of freedom unjustly restrained. There is much to be said for this line of argument. To observe, though, that Arieno thus has a valid point to press is not necessarily to suggest that she succeeds in achieving a balanced revision of her subject. The purpose of Victorian Lunatics, Arieno declares in the introduction, is twofold: "it subjects the airy theorizations of the social control advocates to the test of statistical analysis; and it offers an alternate theory to the phenomenon [of institutionalization], an interpretation rooted in the bureaucratic revolution of nineteenth-century England" (14). As a statistical inquiry based on some two thousand case histories from the admission records of Bethlehem Hospital and two provincial asylums during the reform period of 1845-1862, the study challenges the popular conception of the typical asylum population as a ragamuffin rank and file of social outcasts. Instead, Arieno's statistics "suggest quite the opposite; the institutionalized very closely parallel the general population with regard to age, sex, and social class" (15). According to the data amassed by the author, we learn that the prototypical mid-Victorian asylum patient "has a mean and median age of forty years; has an even chance of being male or female; has 2.2 children; is probably literate; and has a stated occupation, probably in the trades or in labor" (82). The book's second major line of argument places the Victorian lunacy reform movement squarely in the context of the era's general bureaucratic growth: along with factory reform, the public health movement, and other interventionist social legislation, it is viewed by Arieno as another manifestation of the piecemeal centralization and collectivization of nineteenth-century government. Persuasive aspects of Arieno's refutation of the "social control" theory include her detailed demonstration of the disarrayed state of the midVictorian medical profession and health care delivery system, which, she suggests, were far too disorganized to have been...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 95-99
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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