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Stories of violence, danger, and men out of control
Amy Milne-Smith

This chapter places media representations of madness as its central focus. Stories of madmen as perpetrators of violence made for sensational copy, and thus they are overrepresented in media coverage. These narratives reveal larger anxieties of the modern age, and the fragility of established rules and norms of society. The fear that madness could strike at any moment, and that a man could suddenly fall victim to an irrational and violent breakdown, was particularly gendered as male. Madwomen were often portrayed as victims whereas madmen were often portrayed as perpetrators of violence, both within the home and within the asylum. These media panics are perhaps the most public expressions of underlying anxieties about the threat that madness posed to everyday people and highlight the deep stigmas of men’s mental illness.

In assessing media trends, clear gender- and class-based panics emerge. In particular, the figure of the working-class madman who murders his family highlights fears of domestic instability. And stories of sudden madness emphasized deeper fears about the state of British manhood and the dangers of modern technology.

in Out of his mind
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The asylum
Amy Milne-Smith

The second half of the nineteenth century saw the establishment of a national network of asylums across Britain. Asylums were sites of both enormous hope and dashed expectations. This chapter explores why some people embraced institutionalization, and why others did not. It gives readers a brief overview of the structures of asylums, rules of admission for different classes, and types of conditions, and builds on the strong institutional histories of asylums. It provides information about the diversity of asylum experiences, from the elite institutions for the wealthy, to the mass pauper asylums, to the criminal asylum.

The Victorian asylum was born out of optimism, flourished in an era of no better alternatives, and quickly became a symbol of failed expectations. I focus on the male experience of incarceration, and how this experience was particularly destabilizing for those used to being in control of themselves and their families. Men also proved particularly difficult patients to control if they were prone to violence. This chapter introduces the typical experience of madness in the Victorian era that saw the asylum as at least a part of most men’s curative treatment.

in Out of his mind
Home care, doctors' care, and travellers
Amy Milne-Smith

While some families hid their family members away in dark corners, victims of neglect and cruelty, others kept loved ones at home under expert care and keen attendance. This chapter explores men who were treated at home, sent to travel, or lived in the community. Diversity is underscored both in patient experiences and the reasons for choices of treatment. I emphasize the complex negotiations between patients, doctors, and families in decisions of care.

While many madmen likely left no trace in the historical archive, there are many examples when single care went wrong, and families were forced to admit to authorities that they needed help. This includes men at all income levels. Case studies highlight the complex family dramas involved when a man of wealth and power refused treatment and would not be restrained. This chapter also explores the abuse that patients suffered outside of official legislation and sometimes within their own homes.

in Out of his mind
Josette Wolthuis

This chapter challenges the style versus substance binary in thinking about television’s meaning-making process by arguing for the function of costume design as a key element in television’s creation of meaning which shows that style and substance are inextricable. The moment in focus is the opening episode of Series 5 of BBC1’s period drama Call the Midwife (2012–present), in which, at the start of the 1960s, the nurses receive a new set of uniforms. Rather than seeing the cosy and nostalgic style of the serial drama as an opposition to or cover-up of the taboo-ridden and often tragic subjects it deals with, this study of the programme’s costume strategies illustrates that even pretty, decorative aspects of style are constructive of the text’s narrative substance.

in Substance / style
Sound and image in Alan Clarke’s Road
Paul Elliott

This chapter examines Alan Clarke’s TV version of Jim Cartwright’s play Road (BBC, 1987). Part of the BBC’s Screenplay series, Road was both harshly realist and non-naturalist; especially in its deployment of sounds and images. Heavily dependent on its soundtrack and its use of Steadicam, Road is a searing indictment of Thatcherite Britain but also an assertion of the aesthetic possibilities of television, in what was perhaps, for Britain at least, the last period of popular experimentation. Importantly (given Kennedy Martin’s assertions), Clarke turned a piece of theatre into a memorable piece of TV.

Road exemplifies what is an underexplored area of realist screen drama: the soundtrack. In the canon of critical writing on social realism, sound appears very sparsely and the analysis of music even less. This lacuna is understandable given that social realist films and television texts themselves often eschew non-diegetic music due to the distancing effect it has on an audience. Many of Clarke’s films and TV plays begin without an opening soundtrack, the viewer being plunged into the narrative without the comforting signifier of music to underline the meaning.

This chapter looks at a key scene of Clarke’s drama and explores how the play’s visual experimentation is matched by its sonic landscape. It also explores the relationship that both have to canonical definitions of realism.

in Sound / image
Beginning a very dangerous politics
Andrew Poe

This chapter explores the development of enthusiasm as a political concept. It offers a close reading of Kant’s thinking on enthusiasm and the politics that comes from it. This reading pays close attention to the political anxieties associated with enthusiasm. Kant is usually read as defending a detached, impartial spectator as the ground for a more sober politics. This chapter offers a distinct counter-reading of Kantian enthusiasm that moves past the purified spectator, immune to political engagement. This reading of enthusiasm makes sense of Kant’s own anxiety regarding enthusiasm as the “most dangerous” political idea, showing where Kant gives us the terms to think through how to cross the boundary between actor and spectator, and the place of enthusiasm in constructing that pathway. While Kant struggled to come to terms with the significance of enthusiasm, this chapter argues that we see the grounds for a radical reading of enthusiasm within his thinking; a performance that motivates revolutionary action.

in Political enthusiasm
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Or what goes wrong when we seek political relief
Andrew Poe

This chapter illustrates how enthusiasm can become both ideological and apolitical. As enthusiasm developed from a religious to a political phenomenon, the result was a bifurcation of its meanings, where enthusiasm was sometimes experienced as an affect that accompanied zealotry, and at others as a more benign swooning. Focusing on the political thought of Hannah Arendt, this chapter pays particular attention to the affective basis of zealotry. It examines the role of the spectator in democratic politics, and the place of the spectator’s enthusiasm in public discourse. While sympathetic to Arendt’s aims, this chapter also presents a critique, noting that she inherits a binary notion of enthusiasm, one that turns political enthusiasm into a depoliticizing affect. Paying attention to this contrasting logic, this chapter shows how Arendt’s reading of enthusiasm fuels an exclusionary and secularized affect, while vacating the concept of its potency. The aim of the chapter is to highlight and push against the binary logic underlying Arendt’s thinking on enthusiasm, and the culmination of that logic in a kind of depoliticization. By delineating varieties of the binaries of enthusiasm, this chapter works to form a new ground for the rethinking of enthusiasm.

in Political enthusiasm
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Masculinity and mental illness in Victorian Britain
Author: Amy Milne-Smith

Out of his Mind is a study of the consequences of a diagnosis of insanity for men, their families, their friends, and the culture at large.

Studying the madman allows for an exploration of the cultural expectations of male behaviour, how men responded to those norms in their lived experiences, and what defined the bare minimums of acceptable male behaviour. Men’s authority in society was rooted in control over dependants within their household and beyond; without that power, the foundation of their manhood was in question. As such, madness touched on a key tenet of nineteenth-century masculinity: control. Building on accounts from sufferers, doctors, government officials, journalists, and novelists, Out of his Mind offers insight into the shifting anxieties surrounding men in mental distress. Exploring everything from wrongful confinement panics, to cultures of shame and stigma, to fears of degeneration, this study makes an important contribution to histories of gender and medicine.

This text puts the madman at the centre of the history of Victorian masculinity and helps us better understand the stigma of men’s mental illness that continues to this day.

Gary Cassidy

This chapter examines the relationship between issues concerning substance and style in relation to acting, specifically, the performance of laughing. It considers the significance of an act that is widely considered to be involuntary, spontaneous and authentic – thus, substantive – but that, in the context of performance, is marked by planning and technical execution – thus becoming a matter of style. The chapter begins by outlining the critical terrain, setting up the argument that the substantive event of laughter depends, in the context of screen fiction, on the stylistic act. It then moves on to its main case study, namely the sitcom Friends. Specifically, it explores the scene in Series 5, Episode 2 in which Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) laughs after confessing to a recently married Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) that she still loves him. Through in-depth close analysis of Aniston’s and Schwimmer’s performance choices, the chapter unpicks the different layers (both character and actor) that frame the laughter. It demonstrates that Aniston’s is unconvincing laughter that appears self-conscious and not properly embodied, which is contrasted with Schwimmer’s performance choices. As the chapter argues, this is not a failure of performance by Aniston, but actually a deliberate acting choice, as she is using this unconvincing laughter as a tool for her character to manage the awkward moment and to convey her character’s embarrassment and emotional vulnerability. With a successful performance by the actor of an unsuccessful performance by the character, Aniston also adds a reflexive quality to the scene, which aids the characterisation.

in Substance / style
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Failures of morality and the will
Amy Milne-Smith

This chapter puts the patient at the forefront of analysis and is deeply influenced by recent trends in the history of emotions to interrogate shame and stigma. The value-laden diagnostic system of Victorian lunacy meant that patients were often held responsible for their own breakdowns. Without a thorough understanding of the causes of mental illness, ‘intemperance’ was often used as a cover for any disease doctors believed was self-inflicted. Both patients and their families were well aware that men could be blamed for their mental breakdown, leading to shame and secrecy.

This chapter outlines the intellectual framework of this culture of shame, and how patients struggled within this context. The ideal late Victorian man was above all things in control of himself and his place in the world. A man who lost control of his mind and his emotions struggled to retain his sense of manhood. When men felt culpable for that loss, their shame added an extra layer of humiliation. In particular, when a man’s madness was associated with alcohol or sex, internal and external pressures of shame intensified. Often patients were hardest on themselves, and doctors feared that guilt over sexual indiscretions could be more damaging than the sexual habit itself. Chapter sources include memoirs and case notes to find the voices of the patients, along with medical texts and fiction to get a sense of the broader popular and medical contexts of the issues.

in Out of his mind