The Carnival of the Mad: Foucault’s Window into the Origin of Psychology
AbstractFoucault’s participation in the 1954 carnival of the mad at an asylum in Switzerland marked the beginning of his critical reflections on the origins of psychology. The event revealed a paradox at the heart of psychology to Foucault, for here was an asylum known for its progressive method and groundbreaking scientific research that was somehow still exhibiting traces of a medieval conception of madness. Using the cultural expression of this carnival as a starting place, this paper goes beyond carnival costumes to uncover the historical structures underneath the discipline of modern psychology. Drawing on Foucault’s earliest works in psychology, his 1954 Mental Illness and Personality, his 1954 “Dream, Existence and Imagination,” his 1957 “Scientific Research and Psychology” and briefly his 1961 History of Madness, I will describe the discrepancy between the theory of modern psychology, which finds its heritage in the methods of modern science, and the practice of modern psychology, which finds its heritage in the classical age. I will argue that this division helps make sense of unexplained psychological phenomena, as seen in general practices related to artistic expression, and individual experiences, as seen in the presence of guilt and the resistance to medical diagnosis in patients.
Austin State Hospital, Personal Tour and Interview, August 24, 2017.
Austin State Hospital, “Insights”. https://www.austincoolart.com (accessed June 11, 2020).
Barham, Peter, “Foucault and the Psychiatric Practitioner,” in Rewriting the History of Mad-ness: Studies in Foucault’s 'Histoire de la folie,’ ed. Arthur Still and Irving Velody, 45-50. London: Routledge, 1992.
Basso, Elisabetta, “À propos d’un cours inédit de Michel Foucault sur l’analyse existen-tielle de Ludwig Binswanger (Lille 1953-54),” Revue de synthèse 137:6 (2016), 35-59. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11873-016-0297-3
Basso, Elisabetta, “Complicités et ambivalences de la psychiatrie: Münsterlingen et la car-naval des fous de 1954,” Medecine sciences, M/S 33:1 (2017), 99–104. https://doi.org/10.1051/medsci/20173301019
Basso, Elisabetta, “Foucault’s Critique of the Human Sciences in the 1950s: Between Psy-chology and Philosophy,” Theory, Culture & Society (2020), 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276420950824
Behrent, Michael C., “Foucault and Technology,” History and Technology: An International Journal 29:11 (2013), 54-104. https://doi.org/10.1080/07341512.2013.780351
Bernauer, James W., Michel Foucault’s Force of Flight: Toward an Ethics for Thought. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1992.
Bert, Jean-François, “Retour à Münsterlingen,” in Foucault à Münsterlingen, ed. Jean-François Bert and Elisabetta Basso, 9-47. Paris: EHESS, 2015.
Bert, Jean-François, and Elisabetta Basso (ed.), Foucault à Münsterlingen. À l’origine de l’Histoire de la folie. Paris: EHESS, 2015.
Bongiorno, Peter, “A Cold Splash — Hydrotherapy for Depression and Anxiety,” Psycho-logy Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inner-source/201407/cold-splash-hydrotherapy-depression-and-anxiety (accessed June 1, 2021).
Dahhaoui, Yann, “La fête des fous de Michel Foucault,” in Foucault à Münsterlingen, ed. Jean-François Bert and Elisabetta Basso, 233-248. Paris: EHESS, 2015.
Elden, Stuart, “The changes between Maladie mentale et personnalité (1954) and Maladie mentale et psychologie (1962),” Progressive Geographies. https://progressivegeographies.com/resources/foucault-resources/the-changes-between-maladie-mentale-et-personnalite-1954-and-maladie-mentale-et-psychologie-1962/ (ac-cessed June 1, 2021).
Eribon, Didier, Michel Foucault. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.
Foucault, Michel, Maladie mentale et personnalité. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1954. https://generation-online.org/p/fp-foucault.pdf (accessed June 1, 2021)
Foucault, Michel, “Dream, Imagination and Existence: An Introduction to Ludwig Binswanger’s Dream and Existence” in Dream and Existence , ed. Keith Hoeller, 31-78. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1993.
Foucault, Michel, “La recherche scientifique et la psychologie” , in Dits et écrits I. 1954-1975, 165-186. Paris: Gallimard, 2001.
Foucault, Michel, History of Madness , trans. Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa. Lon-don: Routledge, 2006.
Foucault, Michel, Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique . Paris: Gallimard, 1972.
Foucault, Michel, Mental Illness and Psychology , trans. Alan Sheridan. Berkeley: Uni-versity of California Press, 1987.
Foucault, Michel, Maladie mentale et psychologie . Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2015.
Foucault, Michel, “La folie et la fête,” first of five radio interviews under the title: “L’usage de la parole. Les languages de la folie,” January 7, 1963. Audio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TC8f9zuIgw
Foucault, Michel, “Faire les fous” , in Dits et écrits I. 1954-1975, 1670-1673. Paris: Gallimard, 2001.
Haddad, Peter, Robert Kirk and Richard Green, “Chlorpromazine, the first antipsychotic medication: history, controversy and legacy,” British Association for Psychopharmacol-ogy. October 31, 2016. https://www.bap.org.uk/articles/chlorpromazine-the-first-antipsychotic/
Han-Pile, Béatrice, “Phenomenology and Anthropology in Foucault’s ‘Introduction to Binswanger’s Dream and Existence’: A Mirror Image of The Order of Things?” History and Theory 54 (2016), 7-22. https://doi.org/10.1111/hith.10825
Harmon, Rebecca Bouterie, “Hydrotherapy in State Mental Hospitals in the Mid-Twentieth Century,” Issues in Mental Health Nursing 30:8 (2009), 491-494. https://doi.org/10.1080/01612840802509460
Harris, Max, Sacred Folly: A New History of the Feast of Fools. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014.
Hartney, Elizabeth, “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction: An Evidence-Based Psy-chological Technique for Treating a Range of Addictions,” Very Well Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-for-addiction-21953 (ac-cessed June 1, 2021).
Helm, Katharina, Kathrin Viol, Thomas M. Weigner, Peter A. Tass, Christian Grefkes, Damir del Monte and Günter Schiepek, “Neuronal connectivity in major depressive dis-order: a systematic review,” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 2018:14 (2018), 2715-2737. https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S170989
Hillhouse, Todd M., and Joseph H. Porter, “A brief history of the development of antide-pressant drugs: From monoamines to glutamate,” Experimental and Clinical Psychophar-macology 23:1 (2015), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038550
The Interact Center, “Feast of Fools”. https://interactcenter.org/performing-arts/performances/feast-of-fools-2017/ (accessed June 11, 2020).
Kleinman, Arthur, Rethinking Psychiatry: From Cultural Category to Personal Experience. New York: Free Press, 1991.
Laing, R.D., and Aaron Esterson, Sanity, Madness, and the Family . London: Routledge, 2016.
Moncrieff, Joanna, “The Creation of the Concept of an Antidepressant: An Historical Anal-ysis,” Social Science & Medicine 66 (2008), 2346-2355. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.01.047
Moncrieff, Joanna, The Myth of the Chemical Cure: A Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
Moncrieff, Joanna, Maev Conneely and Paul Higgs. “Medicalising the Moral: The Case of Depression as Revealed in Internet Blogs,” Social Theory & Health (2020). https://doi.org10.1057/s41285-020-00141-1
Ninnis, Drew, “Foucault and the Madness of Classifying Our Madness,” Foucault Studies 21 (2016), 117-137.
Raffnsøe, Sverre, “A page of unpublished history; A Review of: Jean-Francois Bert and Elisabetta Basso (eds.), Foucault à Münsterlingen; À l’origine de l’Histoire de la folie, Avec des photographies de Jacqueline Verdeaux,” Foucault Studies 21 (2016), 259-261. https://doi.org/10.22439/fs.v0i0.5027
Sheridan, Alan, Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth. London: Routledge, 1990.
Steiner, Andy, “In creating the new play ‘Feast of Fools,’ actors see disability as a creative advantage,” MinnPost, October 18, 2017. https://www.minnpost.com/mental-health-addiction/2017/10/creating-new-play-feast-fools-actors-see-disability-creative-advanta/ (accessed June 11, 2021).
Szasz, Thomas, The Myth of Mental Illness. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.
Copyright (c) 2021 The Author
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Authors retain copyright to their work, but assign the right of the first publication to Foucault Studies. The work is subject to a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license, but despite these restrictions, authors can take for granted that Foucault Studies will permit articles published in Foucault Studies to be translated or reprinted in another format such as a book providing a full reference is made to Foucault Studies as the original place of publication.