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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.


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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.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Posted at Shelf Inflicted Elaine Showalter’s The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980 is a very informative, very accessible, and very disturbing look at how “insanity” was treated from 1830 to 1980. It examines cultural expectations about how women should behave and how these male perceptions affected the diagnosis and treatment of women’s mental health problems. I read this book from cover to cover and would have been very happy if it were a school text. One of the thi Posted at Shelf Inflicted Elaine Showalter’s The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980 is a very informative, very accessible, and very disturbing look at how “insanity” was treated from 1830 to 1980. It examines cultural expectations about how women should behave and how these male perceptions affected the diagnosis and treatment of women’s mental health problems. I read this book from cover to cover and would have been very happy if it were a school text. One of the things I liked most about the book was its personal approach, using the perspectives of female "inmates" themselves, and fiction excerpts from a variety of authors, such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Bronte, Doris Lessing, and others to highlight women's mental health issues and experiences with doctors and provide an insight into the culture and period. There was also a section on men who suffered "shell shock" during WWI, the treatment they received, the similarities between "hysterical" men and women, and the modernization of psychiatry. I highly recommend this book for those interested in mental health, history, and the effects of power and gender imbalance in the mental health care profession and in society.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This was an exceptionally compelling overview of "all that ails us" ... the us being women. It appears that the only thing that ails us is men, according to Showalter. I'm not sure whether I disagree, although I'll throw in just a pinch of irony. With an eye to tracking our inner malady, Showalter traces the treatment of women from 1830 to 1980: a nice chunk of time which should have shown progression and breakthroughs in dealing with mental health issues in women. From my point of view, not much This was an exceptionally compelling overview of "all that ails us" ... the us being women. It appears that the only thing that ails us is men, according to Showalter. I'm not sure whether I disagree, although I'll throw in just a pinch of irony. With an eye to tracking our inner malady, Showalter traces the treatment of women from 1830 to 1980: a nice chunk of time which should have shown progression and breakthroughs in dealing with mental health issues in women. From my point of view, not much had "progressed" in 150 years, except that the facilities were somewhat more modern. The attitudes, the biases, the prejudices remained extant, for the most part -- at least well into the 1980s when this book was published. (Whether much has changed since the 30-odd years that Showalter wrote this book, I wouldn't begin to guess. Superficially, it seems so.) Mental health is quite a misnomer, in any case, for the most part of this book, for women were considered "mad" for the most innocuous of "offences". Suffice it to say that I wanted to set my own hair on fire while reading the travesties that women committed against society: the travesty of wanting dignity to raise their children out of poverty; the travesty of earning a decent wage for a profession of choice, and not relegated to the kitchen or the scrubhouse; the travesty of wanting a voice in how their bodies were treated; the travesty of wanting a say in society. All these were crimes for which at one time or other women were imprisoned in asylums for merely speaking their minds. Oh, and you'd definitely not want to speak your mind. That in itself is the worst travesty. Suffice it to say, also, that in the Victorian era, "they" would have locked me up and thrown the key into the deepest well for I am one who has never known "my place". Lord knows I've tried to scrape and curtsey; to do obeisance, and even genuflect, on occasion. But it just isn't me. The gall rises every time. So, I had my gall stones removed, and became a whole human being. If only society had known long ago the remedy to women's madness. This is not a review by any means. Just some random thoughts. A review would require a thesis: and I'd be quoting more than half the book. Just read it. Showalter has such an engaging style, you'll be thinking you're reading just another gothic novel, but by the time you're through, you'll be scared to death. For real. Recommended to everyone! Why only 4 stars? I wanted more. : (

  3. 4 out of 5

    El

    By Victorian standards, I'd be considered clinically insane. As would you. We might be sent away, at first, for a rest cure which would require we do absolutely nothing with our time - we could not write, we could not read, we could not work. That wouldn't do it for me, so eventually I'd probably be institutionalized and forced to undergo electroshock treatments of such strength that my pelvis bone would probably break, forced feedings (complete with tubes being shoved down my throat), and most By Victorian standards, I'd be considered clinically insane. As would you. We might be sent away, at first, for a rest cure which would require we do absolutely nothing with our time - we could not write, we could not read, we could not work. That wouldn't do it for me, so eventually I'd probably be institutionalized and forced to undergo electroshock treatments of such strength that my pelvis bone would probably break, forced feedings (complete with tubes being shoved down my throat), and most likely a lobotomy. But then once I'm released I would be taught how to get my hair did so the lobotomy scar wouldn't show. On top of all that, since I am a woman and have desires of the sexual nature, I probably would be made to have a clitoridectomy which is not unlike Female Genital Mutilation we hear about on the news. Society (particularly the men) has a funny way of deciding what is considered appropriate behavior. In the 19th-century and early-20th-century if a woman did not fit the mold of a well-behaved lady she was considered insane, and treatment was sought. We think, oh, hey, those dumb Victorians. But what Showalter illustrates is that these treatments were not exercised all that long ago, and more often than not, these treatments were not necessary. She uses literary examples throughout, with mentions of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Doris Lessing, Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Not only did these authors write characters suffering from mental disorders, but they also suffered from them and were forced into extreme therapies at times. Again, another fantastically researched and all around fascinating book from Showalter. And look, I know the dude who came up with the idea of clitoridectomy is dead and all, but I hope he is burning in hell, preferably with the Hounds of Hell chomping on his nut-sack for all eternity.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    I've been looking for a good social history on hysteria for awhile now and I came across this book at work. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for but it was quite interesting. The author looked at the history of women and "madness" and the way they were treated by doctors and psychiatrists in the 19th and 20th century. It was an interesting women's history, some parts better than others, but I think ultimately if the author was trying to reclaim women's voices in relation to their treatment s I've been looking for a good social history on hysteria for awhile now and I came across this book at work. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for but it was quite interesting. The author looked at the history of women and "madness" and the way they were treated by doctors and psychiatrists in the 19th and 20th century. It was an interesting women's history, some parts better than others, but I think ultimately if the author was trying to reclaim women's voices in relation to their treatment she failed. One of the biggest problems with this book was that by only looking at women's treatment she failed to see what was gendered treatment and ideas and what was practice for everyone. Things were broken down too much into sex first and other things second. In other words whether someone was a man or woman became their most important distinguishing feature which I thought created its own gendered differences. The other problem with this book seemed to be the lack of addressing the reality of mental health issues for women. Nearly all the examples she used of women diagnosed with conditions were women who would not be classified as having those conditions today. For example Sylvia Plath being schizophrenic, instead of depressed. By doing this she made it seem like none of the women were actually mentally ill and in need of treatment. To me this came across as very false. These cases to me were the exceptions not the norm, and as such gave a distorted view of the history of mental illness. The first part of the book looked at Psychiatric Victorianism (the history of the first half of the Victorian era). She discussed the treatment of the mentally ill in asylums, and the development of them, and then the treatment of women in general. Her biggest criticism of women's treatment was that it was based on gender stereotypes of the time. Women were expected to be docile, not interested in sex, and reserved. It was a very good look at the gender stereotypes of the time, however by analysing from a 20th century perspective she didn't really fit these generalisations in context. Complaining that women's treatment in Victorian psychiatry silenced women (98) didn't really differ from the treatment of non-mad women in normal society. Comparing women's treatment in the asylums, to that within mainstream society, would have given a better understanding I think. Only at the very end of the section does she mention that women who lived in asylums often had easier and more pleasant lives than those without. One thing that was interesting, that I didn't know about while reading this section was her talking about Florence Nightingale's depression (or hysteria) and her book/memoir called Cassandra about a woman restricted by society, which sounded really interesting. The next section looked at Psychiatric Darwinism, late 19th century to early 20th century treatment of women. This part focused largely on the development of hysteria and the symptoms and treatments thereof. For me it was interesting to see how closely the symptoms of hysteria matched those of saint possession, demon possession and mediumship in other times and other cultures. Having studied these other areas it was interesting to read Showlater's interpretation of these symptoms. She saw hysteria as a sign of protest, a way to get attention, though never addressed whether these were intentional or not. She also failed to address what the women gained, why reacting this way was seen as a successful form of rebellion when it brought them nothing but grief in the form of treatments. She also failed to address the success or failure rate of treatments, such as the rest cure. She also drew heavily on women's literature to illustrate her points, while this made more sense for the earlier history I questioned its use in the later stages of the book. Particularly when she stated she was specifically focusing on English not American history, and then used examples from America, such as Charlotte Perkins and Sylvia Plath. I couldn't help but wonder why she'd not looked at actual case notes from the institute of psychiatry instead. The chapter that seemed the oddest to me was when she looked at male hysteria among soldiers from World War I. Here she tried to present that the soldiers were suffering from hysteria, and were treated in the same way as the women. To me this kind of undermined her earlier argument that treatment was based on a gendered model. For if the male patients were being treated the same way, then were not the psychiatrists attempting cures that had nothing to do with gendered stereotypes at all. She also seemed confused to the cause of the man's shell shock, stating that it was because of the failure of gender stereotypes, men were shocked because they were supposed to be "men at war" and weren't able to cope. Rather than actually suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, because world war one was a totally horrific thing to have to live through. The writing on the 20th century seemed equally odd. Here she mentioned schizophrenia, which despite being a disease that was equally split between men and women she said was seen as feminising because of the treatments such as ECT and lobotomies. (An argument that really didn't hold out). She seemed to fail to identify schizophrenia as a real illness, and I admit I felt it was all a bit strange. One of the most interesting things I did learn was that there was a female psychiatrist who was a contemporary with Freud who denounced his ideas for being totally sexist, and failing to understand women's problems had nothing to do with "penis envy". I definitely learned some fascinating things while reading this book, and despite its flaws I'd definitely recommend it. It didn't quite do what it was intending to do, but nonetheless there are some really interesting parts and some good insight, particularly into the gender divisions of Victorian society.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Clough

    A stellar analysis of women's issues in a time when it was easier to just decide that she was crazy, rather than giving her any rights. I read this, and I know I will never, ever vote for Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum. We have come a long way, ladies. But we can slide back, if we aren't alert. Vote, and shame the devil. A stellar analysis of women's issues in a time when it was easier to just decide that she was crazy, rather than giving her any rights. I read this, and I know I will never, ever vote for Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum. We have come a long way, ladies. But we can slide back, if we aren't alert. Vote, and shame the devil.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty Grant

    This is a heavy but interesting read. I have actually studied it to death for an essay on hysteria. If any ladies have a secret desire that they might have liked to have lived in the Victorian period, this book might change your mind. Women were treated disgracefully. I think had I been around in the late Victorian period I would have been institutionalised and certifiably mad. Overall, good read for it's purpose but not for relaxation. This is a heavy but interesting read. I have actually studied it to death for an essay on hysteria. If any ladies have a secret desire that they might have liked to have lived in the Victorian period, this book might change your mind. Women were treated disgracefully. I think had I been around in the late Victorian period I would have been institutionalised and certifiably mad. Overall, good read for it's purpose but not for relaxation.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    Thrilling and scholarly, this book from the 80s shines the light on the link between oppression of women and ways their mental troubles were treated in England. E.g. I learned schizophrenia used to be called hysteria.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nicole G.

    Lady time-travelers, take note - if you wish to set your TARDIS to the Victorian era (and why wouldn't you? It's quite fascinating), be quite careful not to raise suspicion. Especially if you are - not desiring of children, interested in politics or a job outside of the home, or enamoured of cuss words. Be prepared to make a quick exit if you are discovered, for it is quite possible that you would become a prisoner in a mental institution! Facetiousness aside, this is a quite interesting and well Lady time-travelers, take note - if you wish to set your TARDIS to the Victorian era (and why wouldn't you? It's quite fascinating), be quite careful not to raise suspicion. Especially if you are - not desiring of children, interested in politics or a job outside of the home, or enamoured of cuss words. Be prepared to make a quick exit if you are discovered, for it is quite possible that you would become a prisoner in a mental institution! Facetiousness aside, this is a quite interesting and well-researched book. Ms. Showalter begins with the Victorian age and their ideas of "madness" as pertaining to women, which was basically anything that showed them to not fit the mold of "femininity" the menfolk had constructed. Hysteria and other "nerve disorders" were pretty much the hallmark of a weaker female system. There is also discussion of the first World War, where male soldiers were suddenly coming home in droves with the same symptoms of the supposed female malady. The book ends on the cusp of the 1970s, where treatment of females and mental illness was a bit better, but still seeming to be focused on the wrong things. I think today we still use ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) in certain circumstances.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    I picked up this book after its' chapter on shell shock in male combat veterans was referenced in another historical text. That chapter is not typical of this book (although it is set well in context, showing that society viewed shell shocked veterans as having lost their "manhood") but I'm glad it led me down this path. I feel like we all know that insane asylums were horrible places, but this book was an eye-opener in many respects -- the most notable being just what behaviors could get you de I picked up this book after its' chapter on shell shock in male combat veterans was referenced in another historical text. That chapter is not typical of this book (although it is set well in context, showing that society viewed shell shocked veterans as having lost their "manhood") but I'm glad it led me down this path. I feel like we all know that insane asylums were horrible places, but this book was an eye-opener in many respects -- the most notable being just what behaviors could get you declared "mad" as a woman in the Victorian era. Basically, any deviation from the expected path of quietly marrying and raising children without showing too much enthusiasm for other pursuits or sharing too many opinions.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    By dissertation bible. Incredibly detailed, and well written. I've always been a massive fan of Showalter, and this book is possibly among the most interesting non-fiction reads I've ever had. By dissertation bible. Incredibly detailed, and well written. I've always been a massive fan of Showalter, and this book is possibly among the most interesting non-fiction reads I've ever had.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Treasure

    This one is a challenge to track down, but worth the effort. It was nice to read an academic book-- it's been awhile. The book discussese women and madness in British culture, and it makes me want to smack Victorian men in the head... and then show them my Master's degree diploma... and then show them my bra... and then smack them on the other side of their head. Fascinating, emboldening.... can we send Paris Hilton to this era? That would make me very happy. This one is a challenge to track down, but worth the effort. It was nice to read an academic book-- it's been awhile. The book discussese women and madness in British culture, and it makes me want to smack Victorian men in the head... and then show them my Master's degree diploma... and then show them my bra... and then smack them on the other side of their head. Fascinating, emboldening.... can we send Paris Hilton to this era? That would make me very happy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    harrie kd

    i had to read this for a presentation i did on the history of mental illness in my BA 3rd year history class. i loved it then, and i've read it since and still love it. i often recommend books i've read for uni to people i know who are researching or just interested in particular issues, and this one i've recommended more than any other, it's informative and readable and very persuasive. i had to read this for a presentation i did on the history of mental illness in my BA 3rd year history class. i loved it then, and i've read it since and still love it. i often recommend books i've read for uni to people i know who are researching or just interested in particular issues, and this one i've recommended more than any other, it's informative and readable and very persuasive.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tara Calaby

    This provides an excellent discussion of the changes to and influences upon psychiatry in England from the rise of moral management in the 1850s, through to the era of psychiatric Darwinism and then to psychiatric modernism. Particularly impressive is Showalter's extensive use of contemporary medical texts. This provides an excellent discussion of the changes to and influences upon psychiatry in England from the rise of moral management in the 1850s, through to the era of psychiatric Darwinism and then to psychiatric modernism. Particularly impressive is Showalter's extensive use of contemporary medical texts.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Molnar

    Very interesting book about female "insanity," with a feminist bend. Very interesting book about female "insanity," with a feminist bend.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Showalter's writing is so engaging and her ideas are really compelling. Before reading, I thought I had the topic figured out - it seems quite evident if you've read anything about mental illness and feminism. But I was gladly mistaken - her arguments are very nuanced and focused and made me think about facets of the topic I hadn't previously. In addition, a historical scope like this can often make texts feel rushed, spending not enough time on each time period. This text never really felt like Showalter's writing is so engaging and her ideas are really compelling. Before reading, I thought I had the topic figured out - it seems quite evident if you've read anything about mental illness and feminism. But I was gladly mistaken - her arguments are very nuanced and focused and made me think about facets of the topic I hadn't previously. In addition, a historical scope like this can often make texts feel rushed, spending not enough time on each time period. This text never really felt like that. For my interests, I would have loved more time spent on the more recent years, but that would have made it unbalanced in treatment. There were a couple things that nagged at me in the this text. First is that her analysis on any given topic seems to change based on the point she's trying to make in that she'll make two conflicting analyses of the same topic simply because she trying to make two different points in two different chapters. For example, in one of the first chapters, moral therapy is made out to be a positive alternative to the previous practice of simply locking away mentally ill people. In a later chapter, moral therapy is the judgmental, negative practice that was overcome by the triumphant, non-judgmental psychoanalysis. And still later, psychoanalysis results in false, judgmental ideas about the patient's sexual fantasies and activities. There doesn't seem to be any one clear overarching analysis that takes into accounts both the negatives and positives at the same time. This is implied, of course, so I wasn't completely put off by it, but I would have liked a clear articulation of these conflicts. In the same vein, she would often ignore a thorough analysis of a source simply for the point of an argument. The most egregious example of this problem is when she writes of the 'lunatic balls' that people attended as a positive alternative to when people would previous pay to laugh at people in asylums; how these differ in any great respect is beyond me. She later criticizes those spectators, but I believe that that analysis should have occurred right away. And other things, like taking a medical superintendent's passage on how his modern asylum is so much better than the old dungeons at face value, when clearly he would be writing in order to influence people to believe he was truly better and was almost certainly exaggerating aspects of how bad it was before in order to do so. I also think she makes a lot of excuses for the cruelty of medical professionals in the past, which literally almost every author writing on this topic does so I guess it's not a huge issue, but I think it's so unnecessary and personally aggravating to read. Other than those small issues, I really enjoyed this book. In particular, her focus on literature and her small survey of texts on mental illness is absolutely excellent and really relevant to me. And I LOVE how careful she is about not romanticizing/glorifying mental illness, warning against saying that it's a positive tool for female empowerment, while also not presenting it as a prison for women. She walks the line between those two extremes perfectly. She never uses it solely as a metaphor (as Gilbert and Gubar do), treats it as a very real experience for many, many women, but also doesn't close her self off to its metaphorical capabilities. It's really hard to walk those lines and she does so in a way that I hope I can emulate. Definitely a crucial text for this area, both in its information and approach.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen Hannum

    I learned a few interesting facts, like anorexia nervosa was first identified in 1873. But this book was still written by an English instructor from Princeton and not a Dr. of Psychiatry or even psychology. (it might have been better if Showalter had co-authored with the one both). Actual case studies with footnotes other than Sigmund Freud's would be nice. I think this deserves a 2.5 but since I gave it a four last time I read it, I just knocked it down one before I give it away. I learned a few interesting facts, like anorexia nervosa was first identified in 1873. But this book was still written by an English instructor from Princeton and not a Dr. of Psychiatry or even psychology. (it might have been better if Showalter had co-authored with the one both). Actual case studies with footnotes other than Sigmund Freud's would be nice. I think this deserves a 2.5 but since I gave it a four last time I read it, I just knocked it down one before I give it away.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dani

    Clear writing, great use of quotes and stats, intriguing arguments, and cool illustrations. A good take on the ways mental illness became a gendered issue in the Victorian age and beyond.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Review to come!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniela Cervantes

    Excellent analysis on the treatment of female insanity.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    An interesting read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    By Victorian standards almost every modern woman would have been considered insane. That's a sobering thought, and this is a sobering read. There are many books out there on the history of mental illness and treatment, of psychology and psychiatry, asylums and chemical therapy, but so few focus on psychiatry as a female issue. And yet, as Elaine Showalter shows, for many years that is exactly what 'madness' was considered, a largely female malady, a result of the fragility of female minds. The s By Victorian standards almost every modern woman would have been considered insane. That's a sobering thought, and this is a sobering read. There are many books out there on the history of mental illness and treatment, of psychology and psychiatry, asylums and chemical therapy, but so few focus on psychiatry as a female issue. And yet, as Elaine Showalter shows, for many years that is exactly what 'madness' was considered, a largely female malady, a result of the fragility of female minds. The standard representation was Ophelia, wispy and exquisite and beautiful, or Crazy Jane, wild and rebellious. Think of all those hysterical Victorian women with 'delicate nerves', lying down in darkened rooms for much of their lives, petted and sheltered, or rebellious young women locked away in homes and asylums. Showalter's central argument is that the history of psychiatry has always been a male history, and the standards of female sanity and insanity have always been determined by societal and cultural norms of gendered moral behaviour. Whenever women deviated from these standards, devised and imposed upon them by a patriarchal society structured around the concept of masculine superiority, their behaviour was deemed aberrant, deviant, abnormal. Insane. Many such women were simply chafing against the stifling domesticity of their circumscribed lives, an impulse we can only too well understand today, and yet a hundred years or more ago this would have been deemed enough to call in the mad-doctors. To recognise and understand these women's frustrations and rebellions would have been to acknowledge their legitimacy, and this would have undermined the entire basis of gender roles in Victorian society, and indeed throughout history. Women were molded by nature to be confined to the domestic sphere, mothers and wives and daughters, and to rebel against this was to rebel against nature. This is not to argue that all women confined to home-care or asylums were perfectly sane, victims of a blinkered, masculine-focused psychiatric profession intent on deliberately stifling the female voice. This would be unfair to both medical professions and their female patients. Many women did indeed suffer from mental imbalance, and again Showalter argues that much of this can be ascribed to unresolveable mental conflicts between their desire for freedom and independence of action and their culturally-conditioned beliefs in women's roles and place in society. She draws a parallel between these women and the shell-shock victims of the trenches, many of whom were suffering similar internal conflicts between their fear and desire to escape the horrors of war with their own cultural conditioning in masculine expectations of honour, courage, duty and sacrifice. This was a truly fascinating read and a real eye-opener to just how much society and culture can influence what we might otherwise consider impartial standards of medicine. Deviations from the norm are considered aberrations, and yet who defines what is normal? Men, for much of history; indeed, even today. Women may not be quite so easily locked up as in the Victorian era, but our male-dominated society still largely defines the roles women are expected to perform in society. When women rebel against these roles or choose different paths for themselves, they are judged, criticised, shamed, degraded, ostracised. How far have we really come?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    This was a fascinating book about the attitudes and treatment of mental illness in women. Showalter shows her extensive research and critical assessment of the shifting perception of madness and how it was interpreted by a male dominated medical establishment. It is shocking to read of some of the treatments imposed on women without psychiatrist actually listening to the women or trying to work out the underlying causes. Throughout the Victorian era hysteria was stigmatised as woman's illness. I This was a fascinating book about the attitudes and treatment of mental illness in women. Showalter shows her extensive research and critical assessment of the shifting perception of madness and how it was interpreted by a male dominated medical establishment. It is shocking to read of some of the treatments imposed on women without psychiatrist actually listening to the women or trying to work out the underlying causes. Throughout the Victorian era hysteria was stigmatised as woman's illness. It wasn't until the large numbers of men suffering from a the illness labelled as shell shock that there was a shift in the way mental illness was dealt with. Showalter takes a feminist approach to her research, showing how male ideas on the subject can be reassessed within a feminine context. A brilliant exploration of madness, discussing how social issues and cultural expectations impacted on treatment and the approaches leading figures in the field took.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This was engaging and a very enjoyable read that certainly left me with food for thought. I read it in preparation for a class and I'm definitely going to be following up on this topic and likely writing my class essay on it. I also really enjoyed the writing style, Showalter's style is easy to follow and easy to read (which was a nice break compared to other historical texts I have read.)If you're in any way interested in the topic I'd certainly recommend it, especially as a great starting poin This was engaging and a very enjoyable read that certainly left me with food for thought. I read it in preparation for a class and I'm definitely going to be following up on this topic and likely writing my class essay on it. I also really enjoyed the writing style, Showalter's style is easy to follow and easy to read (which was a nice break compared to other historical texts I have read.)If you're in any way interested in the topic I'd certainly recommend it, especially as a great starting point.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chimene Bateman

    I first read this book twenty years ago in grad school, and reread it now for my book club (an inspired choice!). I appreciated its insights even more this time round. It's an exemplary work of criticism, packed with information and ideas but very readable. Admittedly, the time period Showalter covers isn't one I have in-depth knowledge of, but the intro on women and madness is useful for thinking about the topic in any era. I first read this book twenty years ago in grad school, and reread it now for my book club (an inspired choice!). I appreciated its insights even more this time round. It's an exemplary work of criticism, packed with information and ideas but very readable. Admittedly, the time period Showalter covers isn't one I have in-depth knowledge of, but the intro on women and madness is useful for thinking about the topic in any era.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Veleda

    This is a fascinating book. Insightful and thorough, it's also very readible. Reading this has expanded not only my knowledge of the historical treatment of mental illness, but also my own understanding of what it means to be female and mad. This is a fascinating book. Insightful and thorough, it's also very readible. Reading this has expanded not only my knowledge of the historical treatment of mental illness, but also my own understanding of what it means to be female and mad.

  26. 5 out of 5

    K.E. Page

    Excellent history of how women have been viewed mad over the last 150 years. Informative and upsetting with sharp critiques of the various male psychiatrists whose theories controlled the world of mental illness.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Fascinating and brilliant, it's easy to see why it is now regarded as a classic. I've been recommending it to people all week! Anyone even slightly interested in feminism needs to read this book; both illuminating and horrifying. Fascinating and brilliant, it's easy to see why it is now regarded as a classic. I've been recommending it to people all week! Anyone even slightly interested in feminism needs to read this book; both illuminating and horrifying.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    For anyone intersted in Hysteria/ female "madness" as a social construction, this is a must read. For anyone intersted in Hysteria/ female "madness" as a social construction, this is a must read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Krysia

    Another essential secondary source to understanding gender in Victorian England.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Scott Neigh

    Reviewed here. Reviewed here.

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