‘There Was Only One Thing Paradoxical About the Man”: An Oblique Perspective on Madness in Four Stories by Georgios
The emergence of psychiatry and psychology as autonomous disciplines has provided one of the most potent paradigms currently used by cultural and literary historians in their reassessment of the nineteenth century. Following the analysis of Michel Foucault in Madness and Civilization and in The Archeology of Knowledge, one specific line of critical inquiry eschews “madness” as an essentialist category in favour of an investigation of nineteenth-century notions of mental illness as discursive formations.1 These are conceived as sets of rules linking symptoms to pathological conditions, which can in turn be subsumed under wider cultural categories such as gender, class, and race. The nature of both “symptom” and “pathological condition” is not fixed, but can move across a more or less wide range of interpretation. The debate, however, has so far focused on texts-medical, psychological, or literary-generally belonging to the Western canon and therefore reflecting these discursive formations from within. In this chapter, I propose an oblique perspective on madness: from the distinctive geographic and literary vantage point provided by the Greek writer Georgios Vizyenos (1849-1896).