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The Man Who Thought He Was NapoleonToward a Political History of Madness$
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Laure Murat

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226025735

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226025872.001.0001

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The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon

The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon

(p.107) Three The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon
The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon

Laure Murat

University of Chicago Press

On December 1840, Paris celebrated the arrival of Napoleon’s remains with a grandiose ceremony known as the “return of the ashes.” In the following weeks, the director of the Bicêtre asylum institutionalized fourteen new “emperors.” Why did madmen so often identified with Napoleon? And why Napoleon rather than the Sun King? Based on the Napoleonic legend, this chapter focuses on “delusions of grandeur” or what doctors called at that time “ambitious monomania.” It analyzes it as the scourge of the century and puts it within the framework of Romanticism and its cult of the hero. Rather than his personality, it is Napoleon’s symbolic figure that best explains the process of megalomaniac identification: a soldier turned emperor, a self made man instead of an entitled heir, Napoleon didn’t inherit his legitimacy but won it through political genius and force of arms.

Keywords:   delusions of grandeur, Napoleon, phrenology, megalomania

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