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The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980

Elaine Showalter

1 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, Feminism & feminist theory

A vital counter-interpretation of madness in women, showing how it is often a consequence of, rather than a deviation from, the traditional female role.

In this informative, timely and often harrowing study, Elaine Showalter demonstrates how cultural ideas about 'proper' feminine behaviour have shaped the definition and treatment of female insanity for 150 years, and given mental disorder in women specifically sexual connotations. Along with vivid portraits of the men who dominated psychiatry, and descriptions of the therapeutic practices that were used to bring women 'to their senses', she draws on diaries and narratives by inmates, and fiction from Mary Wollstonecraft to Doris Lessing, to supply a cultural perspective usually missing from studies of mental illness.

Highly original and beautifully written, The Female Malady is a vital counter-interpretation of madness in women, showing how it is a consequence of, rather than a deviation from, the traditional female role.

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Praise for The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980

  • She writes with penetration, precision and passion. This book is essential reading for all those concerned with what psychiatry has done to women, and what new psychiatry could do for them - ROY PORTER, WELLCOME INSTITUTE FOR THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE

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Elaine Showalter

Elaine Showalter was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1941. From 1967 to 1984 she taught English and Women's Studies at Rutgers University, and she now chairs the department of English at Princeton University.

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