Voices from the Asylum: Four French Women Writers, 1850-1920

Hardcover | November 14, 2010

bySusannah Wilson

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Voices from the Asylum is a fascinating investigation of the lives of four women incarcerated in French psychiatric hospitals in the second half of the nineteenth century. The renowned sculptor (and mistress of Rodin) Camille Claudel, the musician Hersilie Rouy, the feminist activist MarieEsquiron, and the self-proclaimed mystic and eccentric Pauline Lair Lamotte, all left first-hand accounts of their experiences. These rare and unsettling documents provide the foundation for a unique insight into the experience of psychiatric breakdown and treatment from the patient's viewpoint.By linking the question of gender to the process of medical diagnosis made by contemporary clinicians such as Sigmund Freud, this book argues that psychiatric medicine functioned as an integral part of an essentially misogynistic and oppressive society. Wilson suggests that "delusional" utterancescan be read as meaningful when read as metaphorical expressions of real suffering, and as strategies to ensure the survival of a self under threat. These narratives therefore constituted an act of resistance on the part of the women who wrote them, and they prefigure the feminist revisionisthistories of psychiatry that appeared later in the twentieth century.Straddling the disciplines of literature and social history, and based on extensive archival research, this book makes an important contribution to the feminist project of writing women back into literary history. It brings to light a remarkable but hitherto unrecognised literary tradition in theprehistory of psychoanalysis: the psychiatric memoir.

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Voices from the Asylum is a fascinating investigation of the lives of four women incarcerated in French psychiatric hospitals in the second half of the nineteenth century. The renowned sculptor (and mistress of Rodin) Camille Claudel, the musician Hersilie Rouy, the feminist activist MarieEsquiron, and the self-proclaimed mystic and ec...

Susannah Wilson is a scholar of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French culture and literature, with a specialist interest in women's writing; psychoanalytical theory; the history of psychiatry in France; social history; and 'self-writing' (autobiography, memoir, correspondence). She studied for a BA (Hons) in French Studies an...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:264 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.01 inPublished:November 14, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199579350

ISBN - 13:9780199579358

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Table of Contents

List of abbreviationsNote on presentationIntroduction1. Women's writing and women's incarceration: historical and theoretical approaches2. Memoires d'une alienee by Hersilie Rouy: 'Ou est la folie la-dedans?'3. Marie Esquiron: 'Ma triste et injuste sequestration'4. Pauline Lair Lamotte: 'Je sens que la verite est la'5. Camille Claudel: 'Du reve que fut ma vie, ceci est le cauchemar'ConclusionBibliographyIndex