Jessica's Reviews > Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucault
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Sep 06, 08

bookshelves: aborted-efforts, social-work-or-relevant, crazy-ladies, kind-of-depressing
Recommended to Jessica by: crazy people; smart people (quelle est la différence?)
Recommended for: crazy smart people; smart, crazy people

A last question remains: In the name of what can this fundamental language be regarded as a delirium? Granting that it is the truth of madness, what makes it true madness and the originating form of insanity? Why should it be in this discourse, whose forms we have seen to be so faithful to the rules of reason, that we find all those signs which will most manifestly declare the very absence of reason?

A central question, but one to which the classical age has not formulated a direct answer. We must approach it obliquely....


Er -- must we, though? Really, Mickey? Must we really approach it that way?

Dude, this guy's got some interesting stuff to say, for sure, but I'm not a girl renowned for my patience or fortitude, nor for my grasp of oblique philosophy. And let's face it, Mike, la vie est trop courte! Je suis très désolée, mais.... je ne peux pas. I mean, I could, but come on.... wouldn't that be just a little bit, um, well.... crazy?

What I mean by all this is: Oh, Foucault, what the hell are you ever talking about.... Beats me!
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Why am I trying to read this, you ask?

Maybe because I'm CRAZY!


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I know this is the third comment I've made on your books today... (Yes, I'm stalking you. I'm outside your apartment right now in a white 1995 Buick LeSabre breathing heavily and listening to the Footloose soundtrack.)

...but this book is tons o' fuckin' fun. Especially for the crazy people (like us?) because it argues that madness is merely the imposition of utilitarian strictures of society on us freaks (or the "differently gifted"). Of course, I'm conflating Foucault's ideas with my own, but I'm all about conflation.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I think R. D. Laing argued something similar back in the 60's. Before he went crazy.

Just joking about the 2nd part.


message 4: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Yeah, Donald, I think that was actually after he went crazy.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

How's this going, DFJ? Did you get to the sexy part yet?


message 6: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica I liked it at the beginning, but I think Mikey must've gone off his meds or something, because all of a sudden he lost me and I just got totally bored.

This guy really has this incredible ability to chose the subjects that interest me most (e.g., incarceration, mental illness, sex) and then write these books I inevitably find very dull and hard to stick with. Maybe I'm just not clever or fancy enough for all this pomo bullshit, I dunno. I just always find my initial enthusiasm waning, and then I'm like, "and your point here is that....?" and then I kind of start resenting the fact that I'm dragging this book around and not particularly enjoying it or feeling its relevance.... I haven't given up yet, but I really wouldn't mind if I suddenly had to stop reading this for some reason. I dunno, maybe it'll get good again. He's kind of rambling on about bile and passions right now, and I really just do not care at all. I kind of want to throw in the towel and read more about something practical like the CIA, but I keep hoping he'll get back to stuff that'll be relevant to issues I'm dealing with right now in my professional life, especially pertaining to psychiatric hospitalization. He started out there, so I'll give him a little more time and see how things go.

In other words: Oh, Foucault! You're such a fucking pain in the ass!


message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 22, 2008 03:35PM) (new)

Yep. That's the problem with most poststructuralism/postmodernism... There's some great ideas waaaaaay in there, over to the left, and behind that box of stale Cap'n Crunch, but it's a royal pain in the ass getting to 'em. His The Order of Things sent me running, not walking, for Love Boat reruns. The order of things for me was a Tanqueray gin on the rocks from Isaac the Bartender...

I'm peer pressuring you to give up on this. Life's too short (and other sad cliches), and besides I currently have eleven--count 'em: ELEVEN!--books in limbo. Have Foucault keep 'em company. He's far, far too dead to notice that he's stuck in a broom closet with Amy Hempel and Georges Perec.


message 8: by Tosh (new)

Tosh Foucault I think is great, but I too have a hard time getting through some of his books. But I feel he really is on to something - especially when he writes about sickness, sexuality, and the history of insanity and the 'hotels' for these people. It's not really a pomo thing, but his writing is very dense.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I think you should read Heidegger's Sein und Zeit next. Y'know, as sort of a palate cleanser... (Or an ipecac.)


message 10: by Tosh (new)

Tosh Basically he's an historian more then a philospher.


message 11: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Basically he's a brilliant, obfuscating lunatic more than an historian.... "Fou-" indeed!

Man.


message 12: by Tosh (new)

Tosh That too I guess. But I think he works in a historical context. Lunatic ... of course!


message 13: by Xio (new) - rated it 4 stars

Xio He *is* a historian, Tosh....people forget that. And decide to loose his thoughts into some arbitrary "pomo" or other hip collegiate abstraction. I tend to think he was up to more than just being hip or obscure for the hell of it. I mean 'Discipline and Punish' ?! Really? Not a terribly obscure piece of writing. I read it early on and it made sense.

Perhaps a college education is the problem!

Just kidding, folks. 'm bored.


message 14: by Michael (last edited Oct 23, 2008 12:23PM) (new)

Michael I tried reading this a few months back; it was extremely interesting for the first 50 pages or so, and then, I don't know, it just dipped off into repetition and incomprehensibility. This is definitely one of those books you beg yourself to read, find it tiresome, and then beg yourself to read again. All of Foucault's work has that cycle going for it. It might be the cover design.


Abigail Try José Monleón's A Specter is Haunting Europe, maybe. He takes Foucault's basic ideas about insanity and the fantastic and makes a really great argument (through an approach based on literary criticism) that's loads easier to read than Foucault himself, but captures the essence of what he's saying.


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