Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought

Louis Sass, Author Basic Books $30 (595p) ISBN 978-0-465-04312-5
Does the schizophrenic's chaotic inner world resemble modern art and literature? Sass, a clinical psychologist and Rutgers professor, argues that schizophrenia and modernism display striking affinities: fragmentation, defiance of authority, multiple viewpoints, self-referentiality and rejection of the external world in favor of an omnipotent self or, alternately, a total loss of self. While the parallels he draws often seem superficial, there is much to ponder in Sass's notion that schizophrenia's core traits are exaggerations of tendencies fostered by our culture. This dense, startling work examines schizophrenic inauthenticity in light of the thought of Nietzsche, that champion of self-invention and the mask. Sass analyzes Kafka's introversion, Baudelaire's esthetics of disdain, Alfred Jarry's robotlike persona and the loss of self suffered by Antonin Artaud, a diagnosed schizophrenic. Further, he likens schizophrenics' deviant language to the prose of Rimbaud, Sartre, Beckett and Barthes. Photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
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