Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present

Lisa Appignanesi

Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present

From the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. From Theroigne de Mericourt, Fury of the Gironde, who descended from the bloody triumphs of the French Revolution to untameable insanity in La Salpetriere asylum, to Mary Lamb, sister of Charles, who in the throes of a nervous breakdown turned on her mother with a kitchen knife. From Freud and Jung to Lacan and the new women-centred therapies. This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we conceive of them today, when more and more of our inner life and emotions have become a matter for medics and therapists. Here too is the story of the professions that have grown up to offer treatment, of how over the years symptoms and diagnoses have developed together to create fashions in illness and how treatments have succeeded orsometimes failed, even when those providing care were women too. MAD, BAD AND SAD takes us on a fascinating journey through the fragile, extraordinary human mind. 4.6 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre History, Psychology & Psychiatry
Format Hardback
Pages 540
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication February 2008
ISBN 978-1844082339
Publisher Virago
 

From the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. From Theroigne de Mericourt, Fury of the Gironde, who descended from the bloody triumphs of the French Revolution to untameable insanity in La Salpetriere asylum, to Mary Lamb, sister of Charles, who in the throes of a nervous breakdown turned on her mother with a kitchen knife. From Freud and Jung to Lacan and the new women-centred therapies. This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we conceive of them today, when more and more of our inner life and emotions have become a matter for medics and therapists. Here too is the story of the professions that have grown up to offer treatment, of how over the years symptoms and diagnoses have developed together to create fashions in illness and how treatments have succeeded orsometimes failed, even when those providing care were women too. MAD, BAD AND SAD takes us on a fascinating journey through the fragile, extraordinary human mind.

Reviews

The New Statesman

Frances Wilson

In her exploration of "the dark continent" (another of Freud's phrases) of femininity and madness, Appignanesi goes further than any of her precursors - such as Elaine Showalter in The Female Malady - and her up-to-the-minute analysis of the rules and roles of women's mental health makes earlier studies seem dated. Mad, Bad and Sad is, Appignanesi says, the book she has been writing all her life. It is also, in many ways, the book we have been waiting for.

14/02/2008

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The Observer

Viv Groskop

The triumph of Mad, Bad and Sad is to mix evocative case studies with potted histories of the great and good of psychology and psychiatry. Without wanting to sound too glib about an intelligent and academically rigorous study, this book is an excellent one-stop shop for those wanting to find Freud, Lacan and Melanie Klein among the same pages as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Wurtzel. There is an attractive mix of the everyday and the clinical.

24/04/2009

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The Spectator

Anthony Daniels

I confess to having approached Lisa Appignianesi’s book with something like dread. I thought it would be a simple-minded catalogue of wrongs committed by male psychiatrists against women, but I was quite wrong. The author recognises the inherent ambiguities and difficulties of the field... Her range of reference is very large, and although her book concentrates on the treatment of women, it does so in no sectarian spirit... Indeed, I would say that it is the most readable and elegant history of the last two centuries of psychiatry that I have read.

12/03/2008

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The Financial Times

Hanif Kureishi

Comparable in its scope and intelligence to Henri Ellenberger's slightly dated The Discovery of the Unconscious, Mad, Bad and Sad is essential for specialists who require all this important material in one place - but also for anyone who can't help but wonder about the weird uncanniness of everyday activities such as speaking, eating, dreaming and sex.

16/02/2008

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The Guardian

Sally Vickers

Mad, Bad and Sad is an ambitious, sobering and often entertaining account of a contentious subject. At the same time it is scholarly, acute and written with judgment. Appignanesi's prose is lucid and unpretentious, free of the portentousness and jargon that can encumber writing in this genre. It is a long book but never a tedious one, and I went to bed each night looking forward to learning more.

23/02/2008

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The Sunday Times

Lucasta Miller

[a] subtle, textured and enthralling book... Lisa Appignanesi is evenhanded in her approach towards those who sought to explore the dark continent of the diseased female mind, and to draw the defining lines between the mad, the bad and the sad... One of the great strengths of this book is the way in which it charts the uncanny relationship between fashions in psychiatric theory and sufferers’ symptoms.

09/03/2008

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The Daily Telegraph

Carmen Callil

This sweeping, humane and formidably researched study is an entertaining account of all human sadness, badness and madness in Western Europe and North America since the late 18th century... Lisa Appignanesi has done what all the very best investigative writers and journalists do: she raises many questions for us to answer.

17/02/2008

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The Times

Brenda Maddox

Appignanesi's strength is her mastery of the sweep of history... Appignanesi's scholarly work is weakened by the laboured re-telling of the stories of famous neurotics such as Woolf, Zelda Fitzgerald, Marilyn Monroe and Sylvia (yawn) Plath. It also weaves uncertainly between its emphasis on women and the necessary discussion of mental illness in men. During the First World War, “war psychosis”, or shell shock, gave a big impetus to psychotherapy but it was hardly a woman's disease.

15/02/2008

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The Guardian

John Dugdale

...Appignanesi, who writes fiction as well as non-fiction, excels in depicting such figures as Virginia Woolf, Zelda Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe. After the 1960s, however, the book, still assured in analysing trends, lacks the celebrity case studies and potted lives of shrinks that have previously made it so riveting. The final attack on the increasing reliance on drug-based treatments would arguably work better as a separate, more polemical book.

17/01/2009

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