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My Madness Saved Me: The Madness and Marriage of Virginia Woolf (Hardback)
  • My Madness Saved Me: The Madness and Marriage of Virginia Woolf (Hardback)
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My Madness Saved Me: The Madness and Marriage of Virginia Woolf (Hardback)

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£76.99
Hardback 169 Pages / Published: 30/01/2006
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The vast literature on Virginia Woolf's life, work, and marriage falls into two groups. A large majority is certain that she was mentally ill, and a small minority is equally certain that she was not mentally ill but was misdiagnosed by psychiatrists. In this daring exploration of Woolf's life and work, Thomas Szasz--famed for his radical critique of psychiatric concepts, coercions, and excuses--examines the evidence and rejects both views. Instead, he looks at how Virginia Woolf, as well as her husband Leonard, used the concept of madness and the profession of psychiatry to manage and manipulate their own and each other's lives.

Do we explain achievement when we attribute it to the fictitious entity we call "genius"? Do we explain failure when we attribute it to the fictitious entity we call "madness"? Or do we deceive ourselves the same way that the person deceives himself when he attributes the easy ignition of hydrogen to its being "flammable"? Szasz interprets Virginia Woolf's life and work as expressions of her character, and her character as the "product" of her free will. He offers this view as a corrective against the prevailing, ostensibly scientific view that attributes both her "madness" and her "genius" to biological-genetic causes. We tend to attribute exceptional achievement to genius, and exceptional failure to madness. Both, says Szasz, are fictitious entities.

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Inc
ISBN: 9780765803214
Number of pages: 169
Weight: 408 g
Dimensions: 235 x 162 x 18 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"Thomas Szasz has created an extraordinary body of work, that continues to raise consequential challenges to the the prevailing myths of the culture of psychology." "-- Tobias Wolff, PEN/Faulkner Award-winner, Stanford University"
"As only he can, Thomas Szasz summons forth the 'mad genius' image of Virginia Woolf as an emblem of the contradictions in our present Era of Psychopathology. Dr. Szasz has now harnessed his caustic intellect to the task of scrutinizing socio-cultural constructions of Virginia Woolf's character, marriage and myriad moods. The result is a field guide to psychiatric absurdity, one peopled by the legendary Bloomsbury circle of intellectuals and their camarades in psychoanalysis, art, literature and publishing, who make up the multiple dimensions, some real, some less real, of Virginia's 'mental illness.' [In "My Madness Saved Me"] Szasz delivers spirited vignettes about Virginia's own role in her series of 'breakdowns, ' Leonard Woolf's ambiguous caretaking career and, of course, our society's need to use psychiatry as a form of social control." "-- Elizabeth Ann Danto, Hunter College, City University of New York"
"During the past century Virginia Woolf's "insanity" and the involvement of the Bloomsbury Group in the early manifestations of Freudian psychiatry assumed a distinctly mythic place in the annals of what was called Modern Literature. A rather swampy, not to say smelly, pedanticism grew up around it, involving the whole question of mental illnedd vis--vis artistic talent. Meanwhile a good number of us became crazy ourselves. We knew that much of this was nonsense. But we had small success in combating it. Now, like a cool wind from the prairie Thomas Szasz brings Tankee common sense and objectivity to dispel the romantic and emotional idiocy that beclouds this sector of our intellectual past. May I recommend this clear vision and cool reasonableness to all my fellow psychiatric survivors? This is a matter that should concern us all.""-Hayden Carruth"
"Thomas Szasz wrote an interesting and timely book again! Another vehement criticism of the concept of mental illness is based on a historical example, the case history of Virginia Woolf. She was declared mentally ill in an early stage of her life and this label was used later by her environment and by herself whenever problems and conflicts emerged.
Szasz brilliantly demonstrates that Virginia could never accept sex and marriage, but could not escape from the fate of a Victorian woman, despite her talent and creativity and had to be bound to a man she despised. She put an end to her life by a conscious and deliberate act, according to Szasz, and not driven by the irrational motives of an illness.
Szasz uses biographical sources and various reminiscences to reconstruct Virginia's mentality in an interesting way, his analysis might be of interest to literary critics, social historians and feminists as well as to laymen, who can read the book as a fascinating novel.
In the appendices of the book Szasz refutes the mad genius hypothesis, widely held in the first half of the 20th century and points out again to the power struggle and labeling hidden in the mechanism of branding and handling somebody as a mentally ill.
This is an emancipating, brave writing again from Szasz who is relentlessly fighting against oppression by psychiatry!" " --Bla Buda, M.D., Ph.D., Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist (ECP), Director, National Institute of Addictology, Budapest, Hungary"
"This is the first book in a long time to take on what Roger Poole calls the received version of Virginia Woolf's illness.' Szasz agrees with Poole in claiming that Leonard Woolf was not the loving, nurturing husband he has been portrayed to be, but goes beyond him in asserting that Virginia Woolf made a conscious decision to play the role of madwoman throughout her life. In recognizing Woolf's suicide as a rational and legitimate response to her situation rather than evidence of madness, Szasz has underlined weaknesses in the mythology of her so-called mental illness, which has long been used to explain her suicide. Clearly, it is not easy to prove the negative-that Virginia Woolf was not mad. But Szasz's compelling monograph does just that."-Karen Levenback, author of "Virginia Woolf and the Great War" and former president of the "International Virginia Woolf Society"
""My Madness Saved Me" is distinguished by illuminating, provocative insights that should not fall on deaf ears.""--Leeta Taylor, ForeWord Magazine"
"A tremendous gap in the literary world has existed for 65 years and Thomas Szasz has filled it... Szasz cogently and deftly debunks the myth that creativity and genius are inextricably linked to madness.""--Dr. Abraham L. Halpern, MD, Psychiatric Times"
"For anyone who can dare hear their received literary pieties challenged, the only suprise of [Szasz's] catapult lobs onto the rose-tinted sepulchre of Virginia and Leonard Woolf's "marrage of true minds" is how often he hits his target... "My Madness Saved Me" is distinguished by illuminating, provocative insights that should not fall on deaf ears.""--ForeWord Magazine"
"Szasz takes as his subject not the flawed logic and spurious science of psychiatry, but a specific famous individual human being as the focus of all the contradictions inherent in that impaired logic and that pseudo-science. For those of us who respect his work, this is a wlecome and long overdue departure.... This is Szasz at his best. Read it, and enjoy!" "-- Louis Wynne, Ph.D., Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry"
""My Madness Saved Me" is vintage Szasz. his challenges to psychiatric orthodoxy remain undiminished. If mainstream psychiatry feels it can afford to marginalize Szasz's views, that is because Szasz has provided one of its most sustained and clearly articulated challenges, and that challenge has demanded a coherent response." "--Tony O'Brien, RN, MPhil, University of Aukland

"As only he can, Thomas Szasz summons forth the 'mad genius' image of Virginia Woolf as an emblem of the contradictions in our present Era of Psychopathology. Dr. Szasz has now harnessed his caustic intellect to the task of scrutinizing socio-cultural constructions of Virginia Woolf's character, marriage, and myriad moods. The result is a field guide to psychiatric absurdity, one peopled by the legendary Bloomsbury circle of intellectuals and their comrades in psychoanalysis, art, literature, and publishing, who make up the multiple dimensions 'some real, some less real' of Virginia's 'mental illness.' [In "My Madness Saved Me"] Szasz delivers spirited vignettes about Virginia's own role in her series of 'breakdowns, ' Leonard Woolf's ambiguous caretaking career, and, of course, our society's need to use psychiatry as a form of social control."

--Elizabeth Ann Danto, Hunter College, City University of New York

"During the past century Virginia Woolf's 'insanity' and the involvement of the Bloomsbury Group in the early manifestations of Freudian psychiatry assumed a distinctly mythic place in the annals of what was called Modern Literature. A rather swampy, not to say smelly, pedanticism grew up around it, involving the whole question of mental illness vis-A-vis artistic talent. Meanwhile a good number of us became crazy ourselves. We knew that much of this was nonsense. But we had small success in combating it. Now, like a cool wind from the prairie, Thomas Szasz brings Yankee common sense and objectivity to dispel the romantic and emotional idiocy that beclouds this sector of our intellectual past. May I recommend his clear vision and cool reasonableness to all my fellow psychiatric survivors? This is a matter that should concern us all."

--Hayden Carruth

"My Madness Saved Me is Szasz's latest brilliant and thought-provoking contribution to his prolific output on the myth, metaphor, and meaning of madness. Szasz, one of the great humanists and moralists of our times, gives us a work that is not only meticulously researched and lucidly written, but has insights aplenty into the ongoing dilemmas regarding mental illness: madness as a purported medical malady vs. madness as a method; personal truth vs. the various strategies of make-believe; malingering; manipulation; and mendacity in the service of survival with dignity. It goes to the heart of society's ongoing struggle with these recurrent problems. I found the book absorbing and fascinating from beginning to end."

--Zvi Lothane, author of In Defense of Schreber: Soul Murder and Psychiatry

"Thomas Szasz wrote an interesting and timely book again! In "My Madness Saved Me," Szasz uses biographical sources and various reminiscences to reconstruct Virginia Woolf's state of mind in an original way, and his analysis will be of interest to literary critics, social historians, and feminists as well as to laymen, who can read the book as a fascinating novel. Szasz refutes the 'Woolf as mad genius' hypothesis, and points out the power struggle and labeling hidden in the mechanism of branding and treating somebody as a mentally ill. This is an emancipating, brave writing from Szasz, who is relentlessly fighting against oppression by psychiatry!"

--BEla Buda, director, National Institute of Addictology, Budapest, Hungary

"This is the first book in a long time to take on what Roger Poole calls the 'received version of Virginia Woolf's illness.' Szasz agrees with Poole in claiming that Leonard Woolf was not the loving, nurturing husband he has been portrayed to be, but goes beyond him in asserting that Virginia Woolf made a conscious decision to play the role of madwoman throughout her life. In recognizing Woolf's suicide as a rational and legitimate response to her situation rather than evidence of madness, Szasz has underlined weaknesses in the mythology of her so-called mental illness, which has long been used to explain her suicide. Clearly, it is not easy to prove the negative--that Virginia Woolf was not mad. But Szasz's compelling monograph does just that."

--Karen Levenback, author of Virginia Woolf and the Great War and former president of the International Virginia Woolf Society

"A tremendous gap in the literary world has existed for 65 years and Thomas Szasz has filled it... Szasz cogently and deftly debunks the myth that creativity and genius are inextricably linked to madness."

--Dr. Abraham L. Halpern, MD, Psychiatric Times

"Thomas Szasz has created an extraordinary body of work, that continues to raise consequential challenges to the prevailing myths of the culture of psychology."

--Tobias Wolff, PEN/Faulkner Award-winner, Stanford University

"For anyone who can dare hear their received literary pieties challenged, the only suprise of [Szasz's] catapult lobs onto the rose-tinted sepulchre of Virginia and Leonard Woolf's "marrage of true minds" is how often he hits his target... My Madness Saved Me is distinguished by illuminating, provocative insights that should not fall on deaf ears."

--Leeta Taylor, ForeWord Magazine

"Szasz takes as his subject not the flawed logic and spurious science of psychiatry, but a specific famous individual human being as the focus of all the contradictions inherent in that impaired logic and that pseudo-science. For those of us who respect his work, this is a wlecome and long overdue departure.... This is Szasz at his best. Read it, and enjoy!"

--Louis Wynne, Ph.D., Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry

"My Madness Saved Me is vintage Szasz. his challenges to psychiatric orthodoxy remain undiminished. If mainstream psychiatry feels it can afford to marginalize Szasz's views, that is because Szasz has provided one of its most sustained and clearly articulated challenges, and that challenge has demanded a coherent response."

--Tony O'Brien, RN, MPhil, University of Aukland


"As only he can, Thomas Szasz summons forth the 'mad genius' image of Virginia Woolf as an emblem of the contradictions in our present Era of Psychopathology. Dr. Szasz has now harnessed his caustic intellect to the task of scrutinizing socio-cultural constructions of Virginia Woolf's character, marriage, and myriad moods. The result is a field guide to psychiatric absurdity, one peopled by the legendary Bloomsbury circle of intellectuals and their comrades in psychoanalysis, art, literature, and publishing, who make up the multiple dimensions 'some real, some less real' of Virginia's 'mental illness.' [In "My Madness Saved Me"] Szasz delivers spirited vignettes about Virginia's own role in her series of 'breakdowns, ' Leonard Woolf's ambiguous caretaking career, and, of course, our society's need to use psychiatry as a form of social control."

--Elizabeth Ann Danto, Hunter College, City University of New York

"During the past century Virginia Woolf's 'insanity' and the involvement of the Bloomsbury Group in the early manifestations of Freudian psychiatry assumed a distinctly mythic place in the annals of what was called Modern Literature. A rather swampy, not to say smelly, pedanticism grew up around it, involving the whole question of mental illness vis-A-vis artistic talent. Meanwhile a good number of us became crazy ourselves. We knew that much of this was nonsense. But we had small success in combating it. Now, like a cool wind from the prairie, Thomas Szasz brings Yankee common sense and objectivity to dispel the romantic and emotional idiocy that beclouds this sector of our intellectual past. May I recommend his clear vision and cool reasonableness to all my fellow psychiatric survivors? This is a matter that should concern us all."

--Hayden Carruth

"My Madness Saved Me is Szasz's latest brilliant and thought-provoking contribution to his prolific output on the myth, metaphor, and meaning of madness. Szasz, one of the great humanists and moralists of our times, gives us a work that is not only meticulously researched and lucidly written, but has insights aplenty into the ongoing dilemmas regarding mental illness: madness as a purported medical malady vs. madness as a method; personal truth vs. the various strategies of make-believe; malingering; manipulation; and mendacity in the service of survival with dignity. It goes to the heart of society's ongoing struggle with these recurrent problems. I found the book absorbing and fascinating from beginning to end."

--Zvi Lothane, author of In Defense of Schreber: Soul Murder and Psychiatry

"Thomas Szasz wrote an interesting and timely book again! In "My Madness Saved Me", Szasz uses biographical sources and various reminiscences to reconstruct Virginia Woolf's state of mind in an original way, and his analysis will be of interest to literary critics, social historians, and feminists as well as to laymen, who can read the book as a fascinating novel. Szasz refutes the 'Woolf as mad genius' hypothesis, and points out the power struggle and labeling hidden in the mechanism of branding and treating somebody as a mentally ill. This is an emancipating, brave writing from Szasz, who is relentlessly fighting against oppression by psychiatry!"

--BEla Buda, director, National Institute of Addictology, Budapest, Hungary

"This is the first book in a long time to take on what Roger Poole calls the 'received version of Virginia Woolf's illness.' Szasz agrees with Poole in claiming that Leonard Woolf was not the loving, nurturing husband he has been portrayed to be, but goes beyond him in asserting that Virginia Woolf made a conscious decision to play the role of madwoman throughout her life. In recognizing Woolf's suicide as a rational and legitimate response to her situation rather than evidence of madness, Szasz has underlined weaknesses in the mythology of her so-called mental illness, which has long been used to explain her suicide. Clearly, it is not easy to prove the negative--that Virginia Woolf was not mad. But Szasz's compelling monograph does just that."

--Karen Levenback, author of Virginia Woolf and the Great War and former president of the International Virginia Woolf Society

"A tremendous gap in the literary world has existed for 65 years and Thomas Szasz has filled it... Szasz cogently and deftly debunks the myth that creativity and genius are inextricably linked to madness."

--Dr. Abraham L. Halpern, MD, Psychiatric Times

"Thomas Szasz has created an extraordinary body of work, that continues to raise consequential challenges to the prevailing myths of the culture of psychology."

--Tobias Wolff, PEN/Faulkner Award-winner, Stanford University

"For anyone who can dare hear their received literary pieties challenged, the only suprise of [Szasz's] catapult lobs onto the rose-tinted sepulchre of Virginia and Leonard Woolf's "marrage of true minds" is how often he hits his target... My Madness Saved Me is distinguished by illuminating, provocative insights that should not fall on deaf ears."

--Leeta Taylor, ForeWord Magazine

"Szasz takes as his subject not the flawed logic and spurious science of psychiatry, but a specific famous individual human being as the focus of all the contradictions inherent in that impaired logic and that pseudo-science. For those of us who respect his work, this is a wlecome and long overdue departure.... This is Szasz at his best. Read it, and enjoy!"

--Louis Wynne, Ph.D., Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry

"My Madness Saved Me is vintage Szasz. his challenges to psychiatric orthodoxy remain undiminished. If mainstream psychiatry feels it can afford to marginalize Szasz's views, that is because Szasz has provided one of its most sustained and clearly articulated challenges, and that challenge has demanded a coherent response."

--Tony O'Brien, RN, MPhil, University of Aukland


-As only he can, Thomas Szasz summons forth the 'mad genius' image of Virginia Woolf as an emblem of the contradictions in our present Era of Psychopathology. Dr. Szasz has now harnessed his caustic intellect to the task of scrutinizing socio-cultural constructions of Virginia Woolf's character, marriage, and myriad moods. The result is a field guide to psychiatric absurdity, one peopled by the legendary Bloomsbury circle of intellectuals and their comrades in psychoanalysis, art, literature, and publishing, who make up the multiple dimensions 'some real, some less real' of Virginia's 'mental illness.' [In -My Madness Saved Me-] Szasz delivers spirited vignettes about Virginia's own role in her series of 'breakdowns, ' Leonard Woolf's ambiguous caretaking career, and, of course, our society's need to use psychiatry as a form of social control.-

--Elizabeth Ann Danto, Hunter College, City University of New York

-During the past century Virginia Woolf's 'insanity' and the involvement of the Bloomsbury Group in the early manifestations of Freudian psychiatry assumed a distinctly mythic place in the annals of what was called Modern Literature. A rather swampy, not to say smelly, pedanticism grew up around it, involving the whole question of mental illness vis-A-vis artistic talent. Meanwhile a good number of us became crazy ourselves. We knew that much of this was nonsense. But we had small success in combating it. Now, like a cool wind from the prairie, Thomas Szasz brings Yankee common sense and objectivity to dispel the romantic and emotional idiocy that beclouds this sector of our intellectual past. May I recommend his clear vision and cool reasonableness to all my fellow psychiatric survivors? This is a matter that should concern us all.-

--Hayden Carruth

-My Madness Saved Me is Szasz's latest brilliant and thought-provoking contribution to his prolific output on the myth, metaphor, and meaning of madness. Szasz, one of the great humanists and moralists of our times, gives us a work that is not only meticulously researched and lucidly written, but has insights aplenty into the ongoing dilemmas regarding mental illness: madness as a purported medical malady vs. madness as a method; personal truth vs. the various strategies of make-believe; malingering; manipulation; and mendacity in the service of survival with dignity. It goes to the heart of society's ongoing struggle with these recurrent problems. I found the book absorbing and fascinating from beginning to end.-

--Zvi Lothane, author of In Defense of Schreber: Soul Murder and Psychiatry

-Thomas Szasz wrote an interesting and timely book again! In -My Madness Saved Me-, Szasz uses biographical sources and various reminiscences to reconstruct Virginia Woolf's state of mind in an original way, and his analysis will be of interest to literary critics, social historians, and feminists as well as to laymen, who can read the book as a fascinating novel. Szasz refutes the 'Woolf as mad genius' hypothesis, and points out the power struggle and labeling hidden in the mechanism of branding and treating somebody as a mentally ill. This is an emancipating, brave writing from Szasz, who is relentlessly fighting against oppression by psychiatry!-

--BEla Buda, director, National Institute of Addictology, Budapest, Hungary

-This is the first book in a long time to take on what Roger Poole calls the 'received version of Virginia Woolf's illness.' Szasz agrees with Poole in claiming that Leonard Woolf was not the loving, nurturing husband he has been portrayed to be, but goes beyond him in asserting that Virginia Woolf made a conscious decision to play the role of madwoman throughout her life. In recognizing Woolf's suicide as a rational and legitimate response to her situation rather than evidence of madness, Szasz has underlined weaknesses in the mythology of her so-called mental illness, which has long been used to explain her suicide. Clearly, it is not easy to prove the negative--that Virginia Woolf was not mad. But Szasz's compelling monograph does just that.-

--Karen Levenback, author of Virginia Woolf and the Great War and former president of the International Virginia Woolf Society

-A tremendous gap in the literary world has existed for 65 years and Thomas Szasz has filled it... Szasz cogently and deftly debunks the myth that creativity and genius are inextricably linked to madness.-

--Dr. Abraham L. Halpern, MD, Psychiatric Times

-Thomas Szasz has created an extraordinary body of work, that continues to raise consequential challenges to the prevailing myths of the culture of psychology.-

--Tobias Wolff, PEN/Faulkner Award-winner, Stanford University

-For anyone who can dare hear their received literary pieties challenged, the only suprise of [Szasz's] catapult lobs onto the rose-tinted sepulchre of Virginia and Leonard Woolf's -marrage of true minds- is how often he hits his target... My Madness Saved Me is distinguished by illuminating, provocative insights that should not fall on deaf ears.-

--Leeta Taylor, ForeWord Magazine

-Szasz takes as his subject not the flawed logic and spurious science of psychiatry, but a specific famous individual human being as the focus of all the contradictions inherent in that impaired logic and that pseudo-science. For those of us who respect his work, this is a wlecome and long overdue departure.... This is Szasz at his best. Read it, and enjoy!-

--Louis Wynne, Ph.D., Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry

-My Madness Saved Me is vintage Szasz. his challenges to psychiatric orthodoxy remain undiminished. If mainstream psychiatry feels it can afford to marginalize Szasz's views, that is because Szasz has provided one of its most sustained and clearly articulated challenges, and that challenge has demanded a coherent response.-

--Tony O'Brien, RN, MPhil, University of Aukland

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