Madness, Art, and Society: Beyond Illness, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Madness, Art, and Society

Beyond Illness, 1st Edition

By Anna Harpin


226 pages

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How is madness experienced, treated, and represented? How might art think around – and beyond – psychiatric definitions of illness and wellbeing?

Madness, Art, and Society engages with artistic practices from theatre and live art to graphic fiction, charting a multiplicity of ways of thinking critically with, rather than about, non-normative psychological experience. It is organised into two parts:

  • ‘Structures: psychiatrists, institutions, treatments’, illuminates the environments, figures and primary models of psychiatric care, reconsidering their history and contemporary manifestations through case studies including David Edgar’s Mary Barnes and Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  • ‘Experiences: realities, bodies, moods’, promblematises diagnostic categories and proposes more radically open models of thinking in relation to experiences of madness, touching upon works such as Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko and Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places, and Things.

Reading its case studies as a counter-discourse to orthodox psychiatry, Madness, Art, and Society seeks a more nuanced understanding of the plurality of madness in society, and in so doing, offers an outstanding resource for students and scholars alike.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Beyond Illness


Part One: Structures: Psychiatrists, Institutions, Treatments

Chapter One: ‘I am no more mad than you are; make the trial of it in any constant question’:

R.D. Laing and the Figure of the Psychiatrist

Chapter Two: ‘I guess that this must be the place’: Sites of Madness

Chapter Three: ‘It was a brilliant cure but we lost the patient’: Treating Madness


Part Two: Experiences: Realities, Bodies, Moods


Chapter Four: Imagining Reality: Perceptual Experiences on Stage and Screen

Chapter Five: ‘I watch myself disappear in their eyes, in their tesses, I talk loud but

still I don’t exist’: Women’s Bodies and Psychopathology

Chapter Six: Something and Nothing: Moods of Madness


About the Author

Anna Harpin is Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Warwick, and Co-Artistic Director of the theatre company Idiot Child, with whom she works as a writer and director.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / General