Writing Madness | Radio Times

Writing Madness | Radio Times


Men weren’t mad in Victorian times, only women. As ludicrous as this sounds now, one only has to look at Victorian literature to see how the mental state of the sexes was viewed: women lay lifeless on chaise longues at the healthiest end of a breakdown or, at the opposite extreme, they were confined to attics for the safety of those around them.

Vivienne Parry is joined by a professor of English, a psychiatrist, a historian, and the chair of the trustees of the Freud Museum among others, to analyse how literature developed from the archetypal madwoman that is the skeletal, obsessive Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, through to a post-First World War society where Virginia Woolf shocked her readers with a suicidal male character inMrs Dalloway.


Vivienne Parry explores the relationship between early 20th-century literature and psychiatry. She analyses the heroines of Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway and F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night, and considers both authors’ views on the connection between `madness’ and creativity. She also considers how the books reflect the growing popularity of psychotherapy at the time, and compares their depictions of mental health with those in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. With contributions by psychiatrists Simon Wessely and Chris Thompson, psychotherapist Adam Philips and cultural historian Lisa Appignanesi.


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