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The (un)dress of the mad poor in England, c.1650-1850. Part 1

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jonathan Andrews


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Part 1 of this paper discusses the representation of the mad poor in literature and (to a lesser extent) art, emphasizing how commonly they are found in states of undress. It delineates the meanings behind such portrayals, arguing that the mad were thus displayed: (a) to signify their putative intellectual/moral degradation, ir rationality and 'otherness', and to designate them as an ontologically distinct (and inferior) species of person; (b) to denote their animality/childishness, and their proximity to Nature; (c) to reflect perceived phenomenological realities, such as that the mad were innately prone to denudation, and to tearing or destroying their clothes; and (d) as a direct appeal to charity and relief, and as a sign of their personal neglect (of decency/social codes) or neglect by others. It additionally explores medical representations and explanations of the (un)dress of the insane, before (in Part 2) comparing such representations with actual clothing provision for the mad as recorded in parochial and institutional records. Copyright © 2007 SAGE Publications.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Andrews J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: History of Psychiatry

Year: 2007

Volume: 18

Issue: 1

Pages: 5-24

Print publication date: 01/03/2007

ISSN (print): 0957-154X

ISSN (electronic): 1740-2360


DOI: 10.1177/0957154X07067245

PubMed id: 17580751