Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Büchner and Madness
Thanks to GEB for suggesting James Crighton's book Büchner and Madness: Schizophrenia in Georg Büchner's Lenz and Woyzeck. [see the comments after the post "Lenz by Georg Büchner."] Crighton's book is quite remarkable. Starting from an appreciation of the insightful and empathic descriptions of psychotic disorders in Büchner's Lenz and Woyzeck, Crighton asks whether factors in Büchner's personal life or knowledge of contemporary psychiatry contributed to his ability to create these works. Because Crighton is meticulous in his attempt to answer these questions the reader is guided through an era of German history and the history of psychiatry in Germany that was quite unfamiliar to me. I found his presentation of case histories of psychotic disorders in this period of particular interest. In the end Crighton acknowledges that he can't explain Büchner's genius, but it is the journey through this book, not the conclusion, that is so enriching.