Beddoes, Beddoes and Madness

David M. Baulch, professor of English at the University of West Florida, has published the article “Romantic Madness and the Playwright/Psychoanalyst: Dr. Thomas Beddoes’s Hygëia (1802) and Thomas Lovell Beddoes’s The Brides’ Tragedy (1822)” in European Romantic Review (v.25, n.2., 2014, pp.139-159). From the abstract: “This essay examines both medical considerations of madness and the stakes in its dramatic representation in Dr. Thomas Beddoes’s medical self-help book Hygëia and Thomas Lovell Beddoes’s play The Brides’ Tragedy. Separated by twenty years, these texts show a father and son challenging Enlightenment nosology and exploring the limits of associational psychology. Both find in the playwright and his productions the model for a nascent Romantic psychoanalysis. While Hygëia identifies madness as a national crisis because of the influence its representations have upon the British populace, it sees Shakespeare as the model diagnostician of madness. The Brides’ Tragedy moves beyond the associational model that dominates Hygëia, to expose madness as part of a fundamental condition akin to Sigmund Freud’s death drive. Read together, Hygëia and The Brides’ Tragedy suggest the transformation of madness from an epistemological discourse to a science of the psyche capable of addressing ontological questions.”

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