The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon: Toward A Political History Of Madness

Hardcover | September 15, 2014

byLAURE MURATTranslated byDeke Dusinberre

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The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon is built around a bizarre historical event and an off-hand challenge. The event? In December 1840, nearly twenty years after his death, the remains of Napoleon were returned to Paris for burial—and the next day, the director of a Paris hospital for the insane admitted fourteen men who claimed to be Napoleon. The challenge, meanwhile, is the claim by great French psychiatrist Jean-Étienne-Dominique Esquirol (1772–1840) that he could recount the history of France through asylum registries.

From those two components, Laure Murat embarks on an exploration of the surprising relationship between history and madness. She uncovers countless stories of patients whose delusions seem to be rooted in the historical or political traumas of their time, like the watchmaker who believed he lived with a new head, his original having been removed at the guillotine. In the troubled wake of the Revolution, meanwhile, French physicians diagnosed a number of mental illnesses tied to current events, from “revolutionary neuroses” and “democratic disease” to the “ambitious monomania” of the Restoration. How, Murat asks, do history and psychiatry, the nation and the individual psyche, interface?

A fascinating history of psychiatry—but of a wholly new sort—The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon offers the first sustained analysis of the intertwined discourses of madness, psychiatry, history, and political theory.

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The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon is built around a bizarre historical event and an off-hand challenge. The event? In December 1840, nearly twenty years after his death, the remains of Napoleon were returned to Paris for burial—and the next day, the director of a Paris hospital for the insane admitted fourteen men who claimed to be N...

Laure Murat is professor of French and Francophone studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Deke Dusinberre is a freelance writer and translator.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:September 15, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022602573X

ISBN - 13:9780226025735

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Foreword
Translator’s Preface
Preamble

1 Revolutionary Terror, or Losing Head and Mind
2 Asylum or Political Prison?
3 The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon
4 Morbus Democraticus
5 Reason in Revolt

Postamble
Acknowledgments
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon reveals the intricate connections between madness and politics by showing how every major historical event since the French Revolution has produced a special kind of delirium: from men who believed they had been beheaded by revolutionary judges to citizens who took themselves for the Emperor. This unforgettable journey will take the reader through the lives of men and women who lived through and came to embody the traumas of modern history. Murat has mastered the art of archival research: every page reveals a new find, a striking discovery culled from medical records and case histories that are presented here for the first time. A work of impressive erudition, The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon also reads like a collection of page-turning detective tales.”