Lots of PhD reading again in June… and this list doesn’t even include all of the journal articles! I did manage to grab a little fiction reading time, and utterly loved both of the novels I finished.
Why Talk about Madness?: Bringing History Into the Conversation: Catharine Coleborne
For a small book, this definitely packs a lot in! A good argument about how there are “multiple registers of storytelling” available to historians studying mental health and its institutions.
Gender and Class in English Asylums, 1890-1914: Louise Hide
More generalised than the title would indicate, this is a detailed explanation of the people and practices of English asylums in the period, with reference to the lenses of class and sex. I particularly liked the chapter on “ward life” and would have enjoyed a little more analysis of patient experience of the asylum throughout.
Gilbert & Gubar’s Madwoman in the Attic After Thirty Years: Annette R. Federico (ed.)
An interesting collection of essays covering both the impact of the original book and new scholarship on themes/works discussed in it.
Villette: Charlotte Brontë
This was utterly perfect. Bronte was a genius and the development from Jane Eyre to Villette just makes you mourn what we could have read had she lived longer. Such a perfect unreliable narrator and such carefully crafted prose and restraint. And an ending that is what the book and the protagonist required, not the reader. Absolute mastery.
Insanity, Identity and Empire: Immigrants and Institutional Confinement in Australia and New Zealand, 1873-1910: Catharine Coleborne
An interesting look at asylum patients through the lenses of race, migrant status and gender, that uses both statistics and individual stories for analysis.
Bedlam at Botany Bay: James Dunk
This reads more like an early colonial history of NSW with a particular interest in madness than a book about madness in early colonial NSW, so it would be of particular interest to readers wanting that broader focus. I was personally hoping for a bit more about madness and a bit less about NSW history in general, but I did appreciate the extended focus on particular people. A very male-dominate narrative.
Permeable Walls: Historical Perspectives on Hospital and Asylum Visiting: Graham Mooney & Jonathan Reinarz (eds)
This was a genuinely interesting and extremely readable collection of essays on medical institution visiting over a broad geographical area and period of time. The chapter on mid-Victorian isolation hospitals by Graham Mooney was particularly fascinating to read in the current pandemic moment, due to a surprising number of similarities to how potential infection was treated then and now.
Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum in the Nineteenth Century: Thomas Knowles & Serena Trowbridge (eds)
A broad-ranging essay collection. Not of particular use to my focus, but I found several essays interesting nonetheless.
Isolation: Places and Practices of Exclusion: Carolyn Strange & Alison Bashford (eds)
Very effective in its breadth of focus—the use of different kinds of isolation and different geographical settings worked well to show the points of similarity throughout diverse contexts.
Revels in Madness: Insanity in Medicine and Literature: Allen Thiher
Mostly skimmed as, although the title suggested this would be extremely relevant to my PhD focus, it actually wasn’t relevant at all. A very broad survey in terms of the time period covered, but very specific in terms of the literature discussed.
Madhouses, Mad-Doctors and Madmen: The Social History of Psychiatry in the Victorian Era: Andrew Scull (ed.)
A little dated at this point (largely due to the absence of patient experiences and perspectives in the majority of the chapters) but it would still be a good essay collection to read as an introduction to the subject.
Insanity, Institutions and Society, 1800-1914: A Social History of Madness in Comparative Perspective: Joseph Melling & Bill Forsythe (eds)
A good collection of essays featuring some of the forefront names in mad history in the 1990s. More focused on the institutions and the people who ran them than on the patients, but what it does cover is covered well.
Finding Asylum: Race, Gender and Confinement in Virginia, 1855-1930: Shelby Pumphrey
A great examination of the influence of race on asylum confinement and experience in C19th and C20th century America, with a focus on one Virginian asylum that only housed Black patients, written in a very clear and readable style.
Flaubert’s Parrot: Julian Barnes
I wasn’t expecting to like this at all, largely due to it being designated “post-modern”. In reality, I loved it. It’s fragmented, but the fragments form a perfect whole, and there is some gorgeous language in here and some very striking passages that made it deep into my mind.