Andrew Scull


On his book Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity, from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine

Cover Interview of December 14, 2016

A close-up

If a reader wanted to browse my book, a number of strategies suggest themselves. The introductory chapter is quite brief, but sets out the range of topics I plan to write about, and makes plain that I don’t romanticize mental illness, nor treat it as some sort of social construction. Two other possibilities suggest themselves: either to browse the hundred and forty and more illustrations, which given a vivid sense of the issues the book engages with; or to choose a particular topic that is of interest, and see what I have to say about it: the place of madness in opera or the movies, for instance; or its multifarious relationships with religious ideas; or how Chinese or Islamic culture approached the subject many centuries ago. Dipping into the pages on any of these subjects – easy to do either through the table of contents or the index, will quickly give a would-be reader of the nature of my approach and the arguments I develop.