1st Edition

Madness in Cold War America

By Alexander Dunst Copyright 2017
    174 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    184 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book tells the story of how madness came to play a prominent part in America’s political and cultural debates. It argues that metaphors of madness rise to unprecedented popularity amidst the domestic struggles of the early Cold War and become a pre-eminent way of understanding the relationship between politics and culture in the United States. In linking the individual psyche to society, psychopathology contributes to issues central to post-World War II society: a dramatic extension of state power, the fate of the individual in bureaucratic society, the political function of emotions, and the limits to admissible dissent. Such vocabulary may accuse opponents of being crazy. Yet at stake is a fundamental error of judgment, for which madness provides welcome metaphors across US diplomacy and psychiatry, social movements and criticism, literature and film. In the process, major parties and whole historical eras, literary movements and social groups are declared insane. Reacting against violence at home and war abroad, countercultural authors oppose a sane madness to irrational reason—romanticizing the wisdom of the schizophrenic and paranoia’s superior insight. As the Sixties give way to a plurality of lifestyles an alternative vision arrives: of a madness now become so widespread and ordinary that it may, finally, escape pathology.

    1. Introduction: Cold War Madness

    2. The Pathologies of Dissent: Constructing the Cold War Psyche

    3. Practical Cures: From Radical Psychiatry to Self Help

    4. A Sane Madness?: Psychosis and Cold War Countercultures

    5. Paranoid Narrative: Writing the Secret History of the Cold War

    6. A Schizophrenic Postmodernity: Literary Studies and the Politics of Critique


    Alexander Dunst is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Paderborn.

    "Madness in Cold War America will undoubtedly be beneficial to scholars and graduate students interested in the psychiatric, political, and cultural impact of mental illness, both past and present."

    - John Little, American University, USA