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Theaters of Madness
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Theaters of Madness: Insane Asylums and Nineteenth-Century American Culture

Benjamin Reiss


In the mid-1800s, a utopian movement to rehabilitate the insane resulted in a wave of publicly funded asylums—many of which became unexpected centers of cultural activity. Housed in magnificent structures with lush grounds, patients participated in theatrical programs, debating societies, literary journals, schools, and religious services. This book explores both the culture these rich offerings fomented and the asylum's place in the fabric of nineteenth-century life, reanimating a time when the treatment of the insane was a central topic in debates over democracy, freedom, and modernity. The ... More

Keywords: asylums, theatrical programs, debating societies, literary journals, schools, religious services, democracy, freedom, modernity, insanity

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2008 Print ISBN-13: 9780226709635
Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013 DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226709659.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Benjamin Reiss, author