In the nineteenth century, American mental institutions occupied a unique and controversial place in the public consciousness. At various points in time, or often simultaneously, asylums were seen as either the guardians or the adversaries of science, compassion, and liberty. Though the institution itself was commonly debated, the public generally agreed that the patients held within insane asylums were a danger to society, best kept separate and silent. For most patients, this was their experience. However, a small number of the so-called “mad” were able to work within the confines of the asylum to create a public literary voice for themselves and their fellow patients in the form of asylum periodicals and asylum exposés. This paper examines how men and women who were confined, abused, and stigmatized wrote various works of literature to subvert the oppressive and powerful institution of insane asylums, while also creating public identities for themselves to oppose the stereotypical perceptions of the mad.
How to Cite:
Clark E., (2015) “Mad Literature: Insane Asylums in Nineteenth-Century America”, Arizona Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 4(0). p.42-65.