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Mad, Bad And Sad Hardcover – 2008

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Hardcover. Pub: 1905 Pages: 560 Publisher: Norton WW This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we using Conceive. of them today from the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. From Mary Lamb. sister of Charles. who in the throes of a nervous eakdown turned on her mother with a kitchen knife. to Freud. Jung. and Lacan. who developed the new women-centered therapies. Lisa Appignanesi's research traces how more and more of the inner lives and emotions of women have become a matter for medics and therapists. Here too is the story of how over the years symptoms and diagnoses have developed together to create fashions in illness and how treatments have succeeded or sometimes failed. Mad. Bad. and Sad takes us ...

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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Appalling... 26 Feb. 2010
By e. verrillo - Published on
Format: Paperback
The history of women and the culture of mental illness would have made for a fascinating study in the hands of a scholar, social theorist or mental health practitioner. Unfortunately, Appignanesi is none of these things. Her utter lack of critical insight (not to mention her lack of writing skills) transform this sad history into a pedestrian, and often confused, reiteration of 30-year-old feminist theory peppered with vague Freudianism.

The first part of Mad, Bad, and Sad concerns the case of Mary Lamb, who stabbed and killed her mother in 1796. The description of Mary's case is exhaustive--and exhausting--filled with largely irrelevant details and faulty conclusions. The idea that Mary's "cold, uncaring mother" was partially to blame for Mary's mania is classic, and very outmoded, second generation Freudianism. Even more behind the times is Appignanesi's statement that "Throughout the nineteenth century, talented middle-class women were able to shake off the chains of their socially restricted forms of usefulness by unconsciously choosing invalidism as a preferable form of life." (p 44) The claim that an illness is a liberating lifestyle choice is not only absurd (how can becoming ill "shake off chains"?), it cannot possibly be substantiated. Indeed Appignanesi makes no attempt to do so, as she has simply lifted this idea from earlier feminist writings (which also failed to consider rib-crushing corsets, rampant industrial pollution, and the lack of antibiotics as possible causes of 'invalidism').

If Appignanesi had simply limited herself to antiquated Freudian and feminist interpretations, this book might have been somewhat salvageable, but she descends into sheer lunacy when she claims that "The ever resisted notion of infantile sexuality--which most recently has found our cultural abhorrence of its extreme writ large in the scapegoating of 'paedophiles' - has continued to be the manifold structure which analysts focus on within the analysis, precisely because it so often results in producing what is called the 'negative' transference." (p 201) Aside from the fact that this sentence is nearly unintelligible, it expresses the idea that pedophilia, or the suspicion of pedophilia, is due to the fact that as a culture we cannot accept the idea that infants are sexual. What, in heaven's name is Appignanesi thinking?

What Appignanesi is thinking is that allegations of child abuse are a form of "mass hysteria." In the section entitled "Abuse", Appignanesi states that "Being alive as a woman at the end of the twentieth century meant to be an incest survivor." (p 416) This sort of sweeping, unfounded generalization characterizes Appignanesi's writing throughout the book, but in this context it becomes simply repugnant. Like the Freudian psychoanalysts who ignored their patients' real suffering by reducing incest to "incest fantasies", Appignanesi simply dismisses the reality of widespread sexual abuse. Indeed, she takes it one step further by implicating the child.

In her discussion of "the redoubtable" Phyllis Greenacre's claim that because children experience sexual pleasure, they are participants in their own trauma--and it is worthwhile to point out here that this idea is shared only by child molesters--Appignanesi says "Our turn-of-the-century idea of 'sexual abuse' hardly permits this possibility through the door." (p 421). It is not our "turn-of-century idea" which does not permit blaming a child for rape, but our laws. Sex with a child is, by definition, non-consensual. Whatever Freudians may believe regarding infant sexuality is utterly irrelevant. The same holds true for whatever Appignanesi believes.

In sum, this book has as much value as a high school term paper. Perhaps less. (I doubt any high school student could get away with some of the atrocious claims that Appignanesi has managed to get into print.) If you are interested in a good critique of "mind doctors", read Jeffrey Masson's "Against Therapy" or anything by Peter Breggin. Both authors know what they are talking about.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating book. 20 July 2011
By Pat Marshall - Published on
Format: Paperback
Lisa Appignanesi takes the reader through two hundred years of mad, bad and sad women and she is an expert guide. She also analyzes the "mind doctors" who treated them, including Freud and Lacan. Among the many fascinating accounts related in the book is that of Mary Lamb, the sister of Charles, who murdered her mother with a kitchen knife. Appignanesi also discusses Zelda Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and even Marilyn Monroe! The book is wonderfully readable.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Enlightenment 30 May 2008
By Amazon Crazy - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book heralds a new and renewed enlightenment about women, the mind, literature, and history. Recently I purchased the American edition and can not speak highly enough for it. The writing is superb and the text opens so many windows and doors. It is not easy to put down as it sails forward. I highly recommend it to everyone and that must be a wide audience of public and scholar alike. The book is a treasure.
Interesting Read for sure! 27 Dec. 2013
By Sherri Griffin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not the easiest book to plow through, but it's an interesting book in small doses at a time. Luckily, each section is relatively small so it's easy to read in bits and pieces. It was fun to learn about famous women like Marilyn Monroe in a way you may not have heard before, while also reading about new stories with women who history had forgotten. Some of it's shocking, some if it is appalling, and some of it is just interesting. For what it is-- it's worth reading.
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Absolute aanrader 8 Sept. 2008
By C. A. De Raad - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Al na het lezen van de inleiding wist ik het: dit is een topboek. Zorgvuldig, grondig, uitgebalanceerd en prikkelend om te lezen en vooral om over na te denken. En ik hou van nadenken.
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