Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake

Having an interest in learning about the history of psychiatry through biographies of famous people, I was drawn to Carol Loeb Shloss's book on the life of James Joyce's daughter Lucia Joyce. Lucia was in and out of psychiatric hospitals from her mid-twenties on and was treated by many psychiatrists including Jung. Unfortunately almost all of the documentary material about her life was destroyed, and although Shloss is an assiduous researcher, she could come up with virtually nothing about her medical records. Consequently although people seemed to agree that she needed hospital level psychiatric care, it is hard to learn much more about her psychiatric symptoms other than that she had tantrums, and lit fires. Joan Acocella has has written a thoughtful review of Shloss' book, which spells out some of the shortcomings, that I noticed as I was reading it.