Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum

Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum in the Nineteenth Century

A one-day conference on Friday 13th May 2011 hosted by Birmingham City University

I always had a desire to know asylum life more thoroughly – a desire to be convinced that the most helpless of God’s creatures, the insane, were cared for kindly and properly. Nellie Bly

“And Something’s odd – within –
That person that I was –
And this One – do not feel the same –
Could it be Madness – this?” 
Emily Dickinson

The place where optimism flourishes most is the lunatic asylum. (Havelock Ellis)

This interdisciplinary conference will address a range of issues concerning the perception of insanity and madness in the nineteenth century, its manifestations and treatments, and the patients themselves. The conference will take place on Friday 13th May, 2011, in the chapel of the Birmingham Lunatic Asylum, an impressive building used to restrain and treat patients from 1862 until 1964.

We invite papers on a range of subjects related to this theme. Please submit an abstract of 350 words to by 25th March, 2011. Subjects covered might include:

  •  The life of patients in lunatic asylums
  • The literary treatment of madness and lunatic asylums
  • Early psychiatry in the asylum
  • The architecture and physical space of the lunatic asylum
  • Artists and writers and insanity
  • Poetry and madness
  • Insanity and/or the asylum in the nineteenth-century novel

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