Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Lenz by Georg Büchner

Thanks to Praymont I have read Lenz [for more about this book see his comment on my Yellow Wallpaper post]. Büchner's descriptions of Lenz's madness were convincing and if I had the time I would love to compare them with, say, the descriptions of Lowboy's madness [see my Lowboy post] to get a better idea of how contemporary ideas about madness color our representations of the inner lives of the mad. I don't think it is possible to provide a culture free description of madness and I think all such descriptions say more about the culture and the author than about madness itself. What impressed me more than the description of Lenz was the description of Oberlin and his wife as they struggled to care for Lenz. Without a medical model to channel their feelings towards Lenz their mix of kindness and exasperation reminded of the kinds of feelings that families today have when one of their loved ones begins losing his or her mind.


  1. Thanks for your thoughts on Lenz. BTW, I just saw an article that might be of interest to you. It's called "Literature and Madness: Fiction for Students and Professionals" by Paul Crawford & Charley Baker in The Journal of Medical Humanities, 30 (2009): 237-51. Their focus is mainly on recent English lit.

  2. Perhaps we ought to read:

    1) James Crighton's magnificent book "Buchner and Madness: Schizophrenia in George Buchner's Lenz and Woyzeck", Bristol German Publications N 9, 1998

    2) and by the same author "Some Descriptions of schizophrenia-like illness in the German Literature of the early 19thC. History of Psychiatry, 1996, 7: 31-54