By Aishani Roy


Clarissa Caldwell Lathrop’s ‘autobiography’ about being incarcerated in an American asylum in the 1880s provides a unique perspective into the theme of madness in narratives regarding how an insidious discourse of rationality underpins any exposition of madness; be it in ‘fact’ or fiction. Using Shoshana Felman’s idea of a ‘common place’ madness, which represents madness inside of culture, it is possible to destabilise the reductive binary of ‘fact’ and fiction which is a marked feature of all asylum narratives, and explore the narrative strategies employed in creating this cultural category of madness responsible for the trade in sensation fiction and madness narratives.



“‘You must be insane, or you would not be here.’”[1]  – Clarissa Caldwell Lathrop

“‘It is perhaps precisely this which marks the specificity of “madness” in our time as what can designate at once the outside and the inside: the inside, paradoxically, to the extent that it is supposed to “be” the outside.’”[2] – Shoshana Felman


Inside and Outside

Without plunging headlong into the subjectivity of what we call ‘madness’ at the very outset, it is possible to denote it summarily by the use of spatial signifiers like ‘here/there’, and ‘inside/outside.’ These signifiers, when used in speech, spatialise language by retroactively creating the places they denote.[3] Madness being the history of a division,[4] it can most effectively be termed a spatialisation of history, whereby madness and reason (history) are ranged on two sides of a line that effects a separation so absolute as to engender two new modalities of being[5]. What Shoshana Felman refers to in the extract is this: ‘Madness usually occupies a position of exclusion; it is the outside of a culture. But madness that is a common place occupies a position of inclusion and becomes the inside of a culture.’[6] However, her reference to madness being incorporated within culture must be appended with the knowledge that such a madness is not the madness which exists outside of it, and that this new ‘common place’ madness is an appropriation of madness by culture itself, rather than being the ‘inaccessible primitive purity’[7] that Foucault describes. This ‘common place’ madness is responsible for the traffic in sensation novels or narratives of ‘madness.’

The reason for choosing to begin the essay with this terribly inartistic gesture of the inside-outside, which borders on the polemical, will be clearer on discussion of Clarissa  Caldwell Lathrop’s ‘autobiographical’ account of madness and incarceration; whose text, A Secret Institution, embodies in its structure the ontological divide that we were speaking about. Autobiography, defined as

[a] retrospective prose narrative produced by a real person concerning his own existence, focusing on his individual life, in particular on the development of his personality[8]


by Philip Lejeune, becomes a space where the identities of ‘the author, the narrator, and the protagonist,’[9] are conflated so absolutely as to be a marker of generic fixity and stability:

An identity is or is not. It is impossible to speak of degrees, and all doubt leads to a negative conclusion.[10]

An identity thus constructed is all too commonly conflated with unity, that is, a unitary subjectivity that is always positioned on the ‘inside’ of the generic form. The readers, of course, are partakers of the space of the ‘inside’, but only as outsiders looking on at a spectacle mediated through language.

A preoccupation with the twin spaces of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ characterises both the concepts being discussed: madness and autobiography. The dividing the line, the moment of division, the moment of decision in both signifies an identity, as Lejeune pointed out. It is thus also paradoxically the moment of identity formation. The split between reason and unreason in Foucault’s text also becomes the moment madness and reason are born:

The caesura that establishes the distance between reason and non-reason is the origin; the grip in which reason holds non-reason to extract its truth as madness, fault or sickness derives from that, and much further off.[11]

This discursive conceptualisation of the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ is exposed as being remarkably fluid[12], for while culture on the one hand comprises the inside marked off by the ‘white space’ of unreason, for Lathrop, imprisoned against her will in a state lunatic asylum in America, the inside is the space of madness, the space of the asylum, while the outside is the liberated sphere of (sane) culture:

People who have not lived in a social city like Rochester, which is composed of cultured, literary and musical people, cannot realize what I experienced in being thus torn away from home and friends, and immured in an insane asylum where I was treated as a condemned criminal![…]How I longed to go out in the free, fresh air! As I looked at the beautiful lawn through the cruel iron bars which shut me out from the world, the blinding tears would come into my longing eyes, only to be repressed by anxious fear[…]I felt as if I could dash myself against the cruel iron bars and cry aloud for liberty.[13]


Moreover, the staging of the central conflict between Lathrop and the antagonist Miss Hamlo is telling in its use of the tropes of ‘inside/outside’. Miss Hamlo is a stranger who takes up residence in her family, but in almost every occasion that Lathrop detects her instrumentality in her progressive sickness, it is Miss Hamlo who is believed to be the wronged party and Lathrop dismissed as entertaining delusions. Here, the closed internal space of the family doubles back on Lathrop as a wall that separates her from society in general.

Lathrop’s text, then, occupies a problematic space, which is neither ‘inside’ nor ‘outside’. Her psychological re-presentation of the two spaces becomes a sort of corollary to the split described by Foucault. It is, in short, an effect of space; a purely psychical entity that always situates Lathrop on the outside of the inside and the inside of the outside. In this image borrowed from Gaston Bachelard, the effect seems to be one of spiraling:

One no longer knows right away whether one is running toward the center or escaping.[14]


Subjected to a radical seismism of space, Lathrop never quite regains the poised equanimity of individuals who have not been privy to the same experiences, e.g., her family and friends. To her, ‘[s]pace is nothing but a “horrible outside-inside.”’[15]


In another radical reworking of the concept of language, Foucault argues that language is ‘the thought of the outside’. Thus, the very prerequisite for the being of Logos and language is the ‘outside’, which, in a motion of folding into itself, which Derrida calls ‘invagination’[16], creates meaning, and the act of meaning-making necessarily involves a ‘standing outside of oneself’— the Greek ‘ekstasis’. Lathrop, by choosing to write, incorporates this ‘thought of the outside’ into her narrative discourse, standing by her own self to retell an experience which is no longer what it was.



Fiction of  Fact

‘Do we really understand the significance of writing about madness (as opposed to writing madness)? Since there is no metalanguage, could it not be that writing madness and writing about it, speaking madness and speaking of it, would eventually converge — somewhere where they least expect to meet? And might it not be at that meeting place that one could situate, precisely, writing?’[17]


Writing charged with such epistemic meaning can never be a ‘true’ register of everyday experience. But madness is not everyday experience. Even then, madness more often than not has been seen to exist and arise in domestic settings, albeit in an alienated and disparate realm of its own. Sensation fiction of the late Victorian period can be said to be a space where the domestic and the extraordinary co-exist and interact in highly determined ways for the purpose of general entertainment. Commenting on the feeling of ‘defamiliarisation’[18] in the sensation novel, Elizabeth Langland writes:


Thus, even though sensation fiction has a familiar, domestic setting (distinguishing it from sub-genres like the Gothic novel for instance), from the novel’s opening pages – before there are any significant events – readers are aware that they are inhabiting a different realm, one at a remove from domestic realism. In sensation fiction, the privacy of the familial setting frequently facilitates rather than prevents the commission of crime.[19]


In Lathrop’s account, the domestic has always already been imbued with a foreboding which serves to characterise it more effectively than any other single attribute:


After I had gone to my room, my mother came in and asked some questions, to which I replied:

“I am too weak and tired to talk to-night. I wish to go to bed and sleep.” She remained a few moments silent and then left the room. Little did I realize that this was the last time I was destined to see her for many years![20]


As a matter of fact, it is Lathrop’s family, especially the mediation of her elder sister, Nellie, which leads to her being imprisoned in the Utica state asylum for a period of over two years, necessitating the need for the narrative in the first place. But while reading it, one must be careful to note that the ascription of malice or negligence to her immediate family is a retroactive one, where the end determines the progression of events rather than it being the other way round. In a way, it might be useful to invoke Hayden White’s idea of ‘emplotment’ in historical narratives at this point, which is a narrative strategy that reorients a set of events according to a particular narrative form, and all historical narratives, according to him, are ‘emplotted’ in this way, revealing a hidden structural basis for what is otherwise ‘fact’ and ‘event.’


The telos of Lathrop’s narrative is unusually similar to that of the sensation fiction available in her day, and the influence of the latter cannot be totally discounted while attempting an analysis of her text. Mary Elene Wood in her work on women’s autobiography and the asylum refers to this aspect when she says:


[T]he autobiographies of Smith and Lathrop subordinate any divergences to the development of a central story: the tale of their confinement, experiences in the asylum, and eventual release. While this central narrative maintains links to the early captivity narratives, in which all the action and thought had spiritual resonances, it is much more closely allied to the sensation novel, with its dramatic tales of women battling confinement. As she expresses her fears of the world around her, each narrator constructs a subject position that would have been familiar to a late nineteenth-century American novel-reader – that of the potentially paranoid but in the end justifiably suspicious narrator.[21]


The ‘justifiably suspicious narrator’ becomes a viable trope that is used extensively in Lathrop’s text, which further draws the focus towards the central tension between reason and insanity:


That night I had a singular and disagreeable [sic] dream, and as it was so peculiar, I spoke of it at the breakfast table. I dreamed I was placed in an insane asylum to prevent my marrying some one [sic], whose name I could not recall. It seemed as if my sister had something to do with it, but there were many people around me.

“It was so absurd, even to dream of such an occurrence,” I concluded, “in this enlighted [sic] age, that I have no patience to repeat more of it; it was like going back to the dark ages.”[22]


Lathrop’s text is a riddle of such coincidences which keep on recurring, and the staged nature of the conflict is apparent in the language that she adopts to represent her situation:


I was drawn one way by my reason, and drawn back again by my heart.
I revolved these curious circumstances in my mind and endeavored to draw some definite conclusion from them,—only to become more and more puzzled.[23]


Being a space of ‘overdetermined meanings’, the sensation novel embodies this puzzle-solving attribute of existing reading practices and the generic constraints that this automatically imposes on the text is reflected in the efforts at narrativisation undertaken by Lathrop.


The fabula of Lathrop’s story is fairly convoluted given the remarkable role that coincidences play in it; in short, Lathrop is slowly poisoned by the wife of her erstwhile suitor who wishes to marry her again, and the effects of this poisoning are displayed most prominently in her ‘acts’ of madness, which eventually lead to her being incarcerated in an asylum.  This  is then subjected to a retroactive, teleological treatment by narrative needs, creating the homogenous, tightly-knit end product which chronologically follows the events of her life from peaceful existence to being locked up in an asylum to being set free, like a wild beast held in captivity, in its natural habitat. This seemingly easy-sounding formulation is already a response to the ‘demand for narrative’[24] that Derrida identifies as being seminal to any kind of text, which comprises an agency, a subject, some of which demand the narrative of the other, seek to extort it from him, like a secret-less secret, something that they call the truth about what has taken place: ‘Tell us exactly what happened.’[25] The  narrative demand for a ‘secret-less secret,’ is a mise en abyme; trying to discover a work within a work, a story within a story, and in a different sense, exploring the limits of self-repetition and re-presentation. If the autobiography is about the ‘truth’ of Lathrop’s life, then is the text a reflection of it, or is it constitutive of the ‘truth’ itself, thus creating a series of infinite regression?


Madness, in a rhetorical sleight of hand, is a present presence, the very ‘presentness’ being a marker of its metaphorical absence or lack, and hence effectively breaks the series of infinite regression initiated by the question of ‘truth’ as narrative. The ‘common place’ madness previously alluded to becomes the only form of madness available to us, embodied in mass-produced cultural forms such as sensation fiction or ‘asylum narratives’. Thus, the rigidity of ‘plot’ in these narratives is not to be viewed as an arbitrary imposition on the inarticulate and amorphous concept of ‘madness’, but as the only representation of madness possible in a Foucauldian postlapsarian world, where reason and unreason have already parted ways, never to be reconciled in language.


Lathrop’s narrative offers surprisingly regimented views of what it means to be mad. The journey to the asylum marks a journey from the ordered realm of reason to the disorderly one of madness:


Almost before I knew it, I found myself dressed in an old thick dress I had worn the previous spring, a heavy winter cloak, and an odd pair of shoes, which I did not discover were not mates until the next day.[26]


The regular act of feeding oneself had turned into a parody of itself:


Such a scene I had never imagined! The table was entirely bare. Around this table were seated about twenty patients, a few of whom were regarding me with mingled curiosity and interest, while others, unconscious of their surroundings, seemed like animals waiting to be fed […]After these few observations, my right hand neighbor occupied all my attention. How I shuddered at her constant mutterings and frequent oaths! She was a coarse, disgusting woman, whom I was told by the attendants was one of the most troublesome and vicious of the patients, having set fire to the building once, and attempted it on another occasion.[27]


Lathrop’s description of the walks which were supposed to be part of the therapy intended for the mad (among others were ironing, washing bed linen and carrying food trays, reserved for the more ‘sane’) is remarkable in the image that it constructs of madness and those who ‘suffer’ from it:


I put on my things, and with Mrs. O. for a protector, walked directly behind the attendants. What a humiliation of pride it was, though! I felt that by so doing, I was in one sense classing myself with lunatics. It was an odd combination of humanity, dressed in their fantastic attire, which I think was purposely left unreplenished and battered in order to destroy the owner’s lingering self-respect, and make even the sane ones look as much like lunatics as possible.[28]


The operative term in this passage seems to be ‘look’: madness needs to ‘look’ like madness for it to be recognised, it is very much a retroactive classification which requires the satisfaction of certain criteria in order to be adjudged as ‘sane’ or ‘insane’, and it is concerned mostly (if not wholly) with appearances. It is the ‘scene’ that can never be ‘imagined’, which serves as the locus of narrative madness in general, and which needs to be complemented by what Barbara J. Shapiro has called ‘the culture of fact’[29] in order to be fully appreciated.




‘Do you remember my telling you so many times, that your imagination would be the death of you? How little did I think you would ever allow it to get complete mastery over you to your ruin. Fight it off resolutely, and be saved, before it is too late.’[30]


Madness, in the eyes of society, is akin to captivity – a captivity of reason by unreason. This cultural notion has been disturbed in no special way from the ‘Age of Reason’ heralded by the writings of Descartes and Locke to the time when Lathrop is writing her asylum account in the 1890s. Does Lathrop herself subscribe to such a view? Indeed, that is the aim of the present study – to investigate the narrative evidence available from her text, and to establish whether Lathrop is using the language of reason in order to construct a negative image of madness, or trying to appropriate it to serve her own ends – to strengthen the account of the sane individual in the asylum.


‘Building her autobiographical text around “truth” offered a preemptive rebuttal to the doubting reader,’[31] maintains Madaline Reeder Walter, whose doctoral dissertation on nineteenth century asylum narratives includes a chapter on Lathrop, where she explicitly calls it a narrative based on ‘fact’. In fact, ‘facticity’ would be a better term to describe what Madaline Walter refers to when she says


[t]hroughout the text, Lathrop used the word ‘facts’ as a means of establishing herself as reliable narrator, one who knew the real truth while others obscured or denied it. Multiple genres helped her illustrate evidence that existed in letters, her understanding of literature, and legal documents.


Lathrop’s investment in facts runs deeper than just a mechanical recording of past events, and she repeatedly tries to recreate the rational contexts in which they belong, so as to prove that her own surmises regarding the causal chain of events is the more ‘rational’ one:


How could I be secure in my own home from machinations which were so cunning and covert, that I had no actual means of exposing them without placing myself in an unpleasant position with those who had not sufficient reasoning powers to distinguish logical from illogical conclusions, and who did not seem inclined to believe what they had good reason to know was true, if they allowed themselves to reflect upon the facts of the case, and their slight knowledge of Miss Hamlo?[32]


Her incapability to convince others of what she believes is the rational explanation of events results in her dependence on ‘facts’ as a bulwark against what she perceives as the wordless world of the lunatic:


My despairing efforts to argue the facts, only more thoroughly convinced me of the utter futility of any further efforts in this direction, as I knew it was impossible for me to say anything different from what I had stated were I to remain in the asylum a thousand years, could I be doomed to exist so long a time as that; therefore, after the first six months of my imprisonment, the subject was not alluded to by me in any of my letters.[33]


Lathrop is seen here self-consciously constructing a selfhood based on ‘true facts’ which would vindicate her if they ever came to light. In fact, this entire narrative can be seen as an elaborate mechanism that she sets into place in order to argue for herself a sane, stable identity. She begins her text not with an introduction of herself, but a panegyric to the very real city of Rochester and then goes on to mention her family lineage:


My father and mother belonged to what is sometimes called ‘the good old New England stock.[34]


For the rest of the chapter aptly termed ‘Introductory’, she describes the lives of her parents before they met and then briefly mentions her childhood, terrorised by the presence of a Miss Hale, and still meanders around insignificant family details until she finally comes to the description of the meeting between her and Mr. Zell. This initial ‘grounding’ of her history in facts that her readers would be able to recognise and identify with is completely unlike the teleological force of the rest of the narrative, as it seems to skid from the time of her imprisonment, rush through her experience of the asylum (amounting to more than two years), finally screeching to a halt when she is released and reinstituted in society.


Having said that, it is necessary to enquire into the nature of her response to being imprisoned in a lunatic asylum against her will, and to evaluate that response in the light of what has already been discussed:


The agony this thought brought with it, I cannot express. I thought if I could only have my freedom for twenty-four hours, I would solve this mystery! I would not be so tortured, so racked with a thousand perplexing circumstances, each with a separate sting, and which I could not put to proof, which I could not grasp and analyze in a tangible manner, as all my evidence was of such a nature that it was entirely beyond my control to prove or disprove it in my present position. I could only suffer on in silence, awaiting as best I could the needed succor from the outside world.[35] [Emphasis mine]


The central emphasis seems to be on the fact that she is unable to react as a rational, sane individual would: by ‘grasp[ing] and analyz[ing] in a tangible manner’ the ‘evidence’ of the terms of her imprisonment, and ‘prov[ing] or disprov[ing]’ the reality of her state of madness. The nature of her anxiety is so great that she experiences as a bodily pain the impotence of her rationality inside asylum walls. This is the reason that Lathrop resents the response of the asylum attendants and doctors to her query, ‘Why am I here,’ where their circuitous and tautological phrasing metaphorically drives her insane:


“When can I leave here?” I asked, adding that I did not wish to remain.

“That is for the doctors to say,’ she replied. ‘I suppose when you get well.”

“I am not sick,” I said. “There is nothing for me to stay for.”

“Then what are you here for?” she asked. “There are none but insane people here. If you were not insane you would not be here.”

This was a cruel stab to me. I looked at her in amazement and left the room, finding it useless to argue the point with her.[36]

But considering the ‘fact’ of her own accession, that she never herself obtained the results of the poisoning test, nor could be said to corroborate her account of events with any other, places her testimony in the shadow region of ‘fact’ and fiction. With that in mind, this reconstruction of the dialogue she had with Dr. Brush can be read in a new light:


“Why must I stay here?” I asked Dr. Brush at the first opportunity.

“Because you are insane,” he replied.

“How am I insane?” I asked as before.

“Because you suspect you were poisoned,” was his answer.

“But I do not know whether I was or not. I am not insane,” I said.

“That is your delusion”, he answered, and walked off carelessly.[37]


Is the narrative the product of a deluded mind? Lathrop seems to be of the opinion that madness can be induced through (a) medicine or poison, (b) inhuman conditions in the asylum itself, (c) a profound mental shock, as in the death of a loved one, (d) the event of being classed as ‘mad’ and then admitted to the asylum. In all these cases, it must be noted that madness is a bodily or mental condition which is simulated in an individual due to some external circumstance not within his/her control. Lathrop finds it inconsequential to comment on madness which is internally produced even in a rational and intellectually capable individual. Is this act of omission deliberate, or is it a harmless oversight?


Am I insane?’ I questioned. ‘If so, how am I insane? In what do I differ from what I have always been?[38]


This remarkably introspective comment on her own state of mind is smoothed over as soon as it is raised:


Why have I not a right to suspect that I was poisoned when I had as good reason for believing it as the friends who had taken care of me, and who believed it?[39]

But inherent in her mental reasoning is the fact that she does not know whether or not she was actually poisoned, and can ‘believe’ it only so far as the ‘friends who had taken care of [her]’ had believed it. More than the apathy of the attending doctors and staff of the asylum, and the social aversion of her family to her condition, is her own sense of revulsion to the idea of being mad, seeing as she entertained classical Enlightenment notions of what it means to be mad, and thus presented it with the bulwark of reason. Underlying this conclusion is the doubt that had she really been ‘mad’, and wished to conceal it, would she have drawn attention to the slips, errors, gaps and lacunae in her narrative as she did?



Lathrop’s narrative occupies a slippery terrain which is not easy to locate; indeed the problem of spatialising madness that the concepts of inside/outside hinted at, have already established that no easy resolutions are possible and that also maybe an endeavour to delineate exactly what madness is, and what place it occupies vis-à-vis the rest of society, should be suspended in favour of a critical engagement with the kinds of ‘common place’ madness that are propagated through narratives, both fictional and real.


It may be claimed that the madness described in Lathrop’s text is its own model and its own example, incapable of being separated into ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, but more importantly, the representations of madness follow a particular trope and a particular rhetoric, and it should be our place to ask what it is and why it is followed. Firstly, as Mary Elene Wood points out, ‘the autobiographies of Smith and Lathrop subordinate any divergences to the development of a central story,’ meaning thereby that there is a conscious attempt at modelling the narratives as per generic demands. Secondly, this act of self-conscious editing would necessarily include a reimagining of the depictions of madness in the text, by either dressing up or dressing down the ‘true facts’ as they were experienced.


However, the problem of madness is almost never discussed except as a lack or a dubious by-product of its corollary, reason. And any discussion of the tenuous relationship between reason and madness will have to take into account Descartes’ use of the principle of madness as an example of radical doubt, which in turn sparked off a debate between Foucault and Derrida regarding how Descartes considered/ did not consider madness in his text. Foucault’s reply to Derrida’s essay, ‘Cogito and the History of Madness’, opens with a close textual scrutiny of Descartes’ text (an exercise prompted by Derrida’s own close reading in his essay) which eventually establishes the paradox that the meditating subject cannot be at one and at the same time, a doubting subject. Madness is one of the examples that he uses in order to demonstrate that it is not possible to doubt the actuality of his sense perceptions like madmen do (they think they are naked when they are dressed, etc.), and that madness is always anterior to thought, external to experience, and if seriously considered as one’s own state of mind, would disqualify the meditating subject from the object of his rational enterprise.[40]


To come back to Lathrop’s text, such a proposition would seem suited to her argument, ‘since I am presenting what I know about my experience of madness in a rational and coherent manner, I am therefore not mad myself.’ If she were really mad, she would no longer be deemed as a subject qualified to make rational enquiry, and hence her narrative would fail to be a legitimate testimony of incarceration and escape. The question of legitimacy would seem to imply that the grounds for discriminating against the text lay in the person of the author. This brings us to two variant readings of the text which explore the claims of rationality and irrationality respectively, in the context of author and genre. While the claim of rationality would include an investigation into the mental state of the author, i.e., whether the author was actually a sane woman who was persecuted unjustly by the machinations of her family members, or whether her narrative of rational explication of life events is a delusion that she alone entertains, or whether this reasonable doubt regarding her condition is a calculated effect of the narrative that she engineers, the displacement from author to author-function would indicate that such enquiry is, in a sense, invalid. The legitimacy of the text cannot be predicated upon the ‘reality’ of the author-person, but should instead be deduced from its internal complexities and allusiveness.


With that in mind, the claim of irrationality would demand that the text fit in with existing generic boundaries of speculative fiction and the sensation novel in particular. There are enough examples in the text to support the reading of it as sensation fiction: the piling of coincidences; the use of tropes – the shadowy object of desire (Mr. Zell), the vamp/ antagonist (Miss Hamlo), the unscrupulous asylum doctors, the unsympathetic family, the slow reintegration into society; and the use of supernatural, if not macabre rhetoric:


She was like my shadow. She always seemed to know whether I was feeling better or worse, and as she was the only one in the household who did, I could not help but observe it.[41]


As ‘autobiographical’ sensation fiction, then, Lathrop’s text is a coherent articulation of narrative demands and would seem to adhere to existing representations of ‘common place’ madness without any special divergences. It can be argued that this makes Lathrop’s A Secret Institution a rational account of the irrational (madness) and it is its wresting out the ‘secret-less secret’ that formally inaugurates the text as a narrative that services a demand: for narrative representations of madness, and these representations in turn create the ‘common place’ madness that is the only model of madness available for rational consumption.







[1] Clarissa Caldwell Lathrop, A Secret Institution, (New York: Bryant Publishing Co., 1890), p. 123.

[2] Shoshana Felman, Writing and Madness: Literature/Philosophy/Psychoanalysis, (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2003), p. 13.
[3] Michel de Certeau, in The Practice of Everyday Life, ‘In the framework of enunciation, the walker constitutes, in relation to this position, both a near and a far, a here and a there. To the fact that the adverbs here and there are the indicators of the locutionary seat in verbal communication – a coincidence that reinforces the parallelism between linguistic and pedestrian enunciation…’ (99)
[4] Michel Foucault, ‘Preface to the 1961 Edition’, History of Madness, trans., Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa, ed., Jean Khalfa, (Abingdon Oxon: Routledge, 2006), xxviii.
[5] Foucault, ‘The Preface to the 1961 Edition’, in The History of Madness: ‘The plenitude of history is only possible in the space, both empty and peopled at the same time, of all the words without language that appear to anyone who lends an ear, as a dull sound from beneath history, the obstinate murmur of a language talking to itself…’ and ‘The necessity of madness throughout the history of the West is linked to that decisive action that extracts a significant language from the background noise and its continuous monotony, a language which is transmitted and culminates in time; it is, in short, linked to the possibility of history.’

[6] Shoshana Felman, Writing and Madness, p.13.

[7] Michel Foucault, ‘Preface to the 1961 Edition’, History of Madness, xxviii.

[8] Philippe Lejeune, ‘The Autobiographical Pact (Bis.)’, On Autobiography, ed., Paul John Eakin, trans., Katherine Leary, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), pp. 119-37.


[9] Lejeune, On Autobiography, p.120.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Michel Foucault, ‘Preface to the 1961 Edition’, in History of Madness, xxviii.

[12] Bachelard, Poetics of Space: ‘Outside and inside are both intimate – they are always ready to be reversed, to exchange their hostility. If there exists a border-line surface between such an inside and outside, this surface is painful on both sides.’


[13] Lathrop, A Secret Institution, pp. 124-5.

[14] Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans., Maria Jolas, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), p. 214.

[15] Ibid., p. 218.

[16] Jacques Derrida, ‘Living On’, trans., James Hulbert, Deconstruction and Criticism, Harold Bloom, Paul de Man, et al, (London: Routledge, 1979), p. 97.


[17] Shoshana Felman, Writing and Madness, p. 13.

[18] The term ‘defamiliarisation’ was first coined in 1917 by Viktor Shklovsky in his essay ‘Art as Device.’

[19] Elizabeth Langland, ‘The Woman in White and the New Sensation’, in A Companion to Sensation Fiction, ed., Pamela K. Gilbert, (Chichester: Blackwell Publishing, 2011)
[20] Lathrop, A Secret Institution, p. 88.

[21] Mary Elene Wood, ‘Lydia Smith and Clarissa Lathrop: Whose Paranoia is it Anyway?’ in The Writing on the Wall: Women’s Autobiography and the Asylum, (Champaign: University of Illinois, 1994), pp. 69-70Top of Form.Bottom of Form
[22] Lathrop, A Secret Institution, p. 28.

[23] Ibid. p.32.

[24] Derrida, ‘Living On’, Deconstruction and Criticism, p. 87.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Lathrop, A Secret Institution, p. 89

[27] Ibid., pp. 100-101.

[28] Ibid., p. 131.

[29] Barbara J. Shapiro elaborates on the topic in her book, A Culture of Fact: England, 1550-1720.

[30] Lathrop, A Secret Institution, p. 160.

[31] Madaline Reeder Walter, ‘Insanity, Rhetoric, And Women: Nineteenth-Century Women’s Asylum Narratives’, (PhD diss., University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2008).


[32] Lathrop, A Secret Institution, p. 77.

[33]Ibid., p. 171.

[34]Ibid., p. 4.

[35] Ibid., p. 172.

[36] Ibid., p. 110.

[37] Ibid., p. 120.

[38] Ibid., p. 120.

[39] Ibid., pp. 120-21.

[40] Michel Foucault, ‘My Body, this Paper, this Fire,’ History of Madness, p. 558, 566.

[41] Foucault, History of Madness, p. 43.

Aishani Roy is an M.Phil student at the Department of English, Jadavpur University. She has obtained her Bachelors and Masters Degree from the same department. My research interests include the uncanny, eroticism, obscenity, and early modern Bengal.


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