A social analysis of insanity in nineteenth-century Germany : sexuality, deliquency, and anti-semitism in the records of the Eberbach Asylum / by Ann E. Goldberg
Includes bibliographical references (p. 347-361)
This study of nineteenth-century insanity is based on an analysis of the patient files of one of the first modern insane asylums in Germany: the Eberbach Asylum (1815-1849), located in the former duchy of Nassau. It focuses on the "illnesses" of nymphomania and masturbatory insanity as well as the treatment of Jewish patients as a means to explore the way gender, class, and "race" structured both the medical perception of insanity and the mental troubles of patients. Methodologically, therefore, the work attempts to get beyond the polemical split in the historiography of madness between the traditional positivistic view of insanity as a real and ahistorical disease entity and the revisionist conception of madness as social labeling or "discourse." The medical concepts of nymphomania and masturbatory insanity pathologized deviant femininity and masculinity, respectively, and were thus about the construction and defense of middle-class gender norms. Anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews had the effect of undermining the ability of doctors to perceive deviancy in Jewish patients as illness. Patients, however, were not passive victims of medical discourse. Many "nymphomaniacs" were sexually provocative with the male staff, others had indeed gone mad over men. "Nymphomania" in the asylum was a function of the social dynamics of the institution and the doctor-patient relationship. "Man-craziness" among rural lower-class women in the community is examined in terms of village culture and the social and economic tensions of pre-1848 Germany. In the case of Jews, anti-Semitic stereotypes had the effect of structuring in a complex dialectic both medical perception and the forms madness took in patients. Masturbatory insanity is analyzed solely in terms of medical discourse, as both a means of explaining male deviancy and of extending medical expertise into the realm of delinquency.
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