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Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature and Thought Hardcover – 1 Sep 1993


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Review

Wholly fascinating..."Madness and Modernism" is rooted in a thorough knowledge of the psychological literature, but [Sass] also draws on an extensive acquaintance with 19th and 20th-century art, literature and philosophy...Powerful, lucid and original...Should revolutionise our thinking about the workings of the human mind. -- Iain McGilchrist "London Review of Books" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars 14 reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating similarities between modernism and schizophrenia 19 Aug. 1997
By Alexia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Louis Sass has written a fascinating comparison
of modernism and schizophrenia and related
disorders -- I couldn't put this book down. Sass'
knowledge of modern art and literature, coupled
with his experience as a clinical psychologist and
professor at Rutgers, makes this book. It's
extremely well-written -- the language is complex,
but by no means stilted and academic for the sake
of being academic. Sass' words will catch you and
draw you through fascinating discussions about
identity, language, visual representation, and
much more. He presents balanced observations and makes appropriate connections -- he doesn't
romanticize schizophrenia. One story he relays
expresses this perfectly (pardon my paraphrasing):
James Joyce discussed the creative similarities
between him and his daughter, a schizophrenic,
with Carl Jung. Jung described the difference
between Joyce's creativity and his daughter's
seeming creativity by saying that the difference
was that Joyce was diving down into the depths
while his daughter was falling. This is a perfect
analogy to put Sass' book into perspective.

If you have any interest in issues of identity,
psychology, and modern culture, you will want to
read this book.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intellectual treasure, and a lot of fun too 20 Oct. 2000
By whomi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
With an interpretation so rigorous and self-critical that it is almost cruel, Sass teases out the threads of experience joining madness to modernism. Unlike some who do this sort of work, Sass is well-versed not only in psychology and psychiatry but also in contemporary intellectual discourse, and makes sophisticated use of the work of figures such as Foucault and de Man in his reading. He argues provocatively, using literary, artistic, and autobiographical works as well as empirical data, that schizophrenia is not (as many say) a form of Dionysian primitivity but rather a kind of violent entanglement in the paradoxes of hyperconsciousness. This book is absolutely a must read for anyone interested in schizophrenia or in modernism. Luckily, Sass is a fine writer and makes the book quite an enjoyable read as well.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Informative 14 Mar. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The erudite Louis Sass provides insight not only into the experience of schizophrenia but also its expression in modern art. Although his thesis is that schizophrenia is not a regression in mentality but a hypertrophy of consciousness, he never allows the reader to forget that it is still a debilitating illness. His book introduced me to and helped me understand a number of artists and writers, especially Giorgio DiChirico. Not an easy book, but readable and rewarding.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary classic 14 Oct. 2006
By Carl L. Bankston - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite books. As a work on psychological styles and the nature of rationality, I rank it right up with The Greeks and the Irrational, by E.R. Dodds. The basic argument is that madness is not irrationality, but extreme and excessive rationality, and that the totalizing reasoning of madness shows parallels to the totalizing reasoning of philosophical, artistic, and literary modernism. This is an intriguing view in its own right, and it is a valuable response to the romanticization of madness by those such as Norman O. Brown, who declared that "schizophrenia is the dissolution of the false boundaries of self."

I do have some reservations about this fascinating argument. First, I don't think Sass ever makes clear the nature of the connection between madness and modernism. Does he see the former as caused by the latter? Are both manifestations of the organization of an industrial society? Second, Sass doesn't seem to recognize that he is actually working within a well-established intellectual tradition. The psychological and aesthetic literature on decadence in the late nineteenth century, as exemplified by Max Nordau's Degeneration, saw both madness and avant-garde artistic expression as products of hypertrophy of the intellect. Third, there may be important differences between the deterministic world of madness and that of modernism. Specifically, the rationality of modernity can be seen as connecting causes and effects on a single surface of reality that neither reflects nor penetrates any other dimension. Madness, on the other hand, seems to work within a rationality of depth, giving thoughts and occurrences a metaphysical resonance.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars links between creativity and madness 19 Oct. 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As an artist and a schizophrenic, I have searched for books comparing the two; this is the first I've found, and it's a good one, as well. The need to create, the ability to see and understand what others can't or don't, is clearly explained. The only reason I give it a 9 instead of a 10 is that it could cover more photography, samples of artist's writings and include areas such as found and insane poetry and naive art.
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