Calendar of Events

Seeing Madness: Insanity, Media, and Visual Culture

Austen Riggs Center

25 Main St Large Conference Room
StockbridgeMassachusetts 01262
September 26, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Friday Night Guest Lecture

W. J.T. Mitchell, PhD is a professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. He is editor of the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences. A scholar and theorist of media, visual art, and literature, Mitchell is associated with the emergent fields of visual culture and iconology (the study of images across the media). He is known especially for his work on the relations of visual and verbal representations in the context of social and political issues. Under his editorship, Critical Inquiry has published special issues on public art, psychoanalysis, pluralism, feminism, the sociology of literature, canons, race and identity, narrative, the politics of interpretation, postcolonial theory, and many other topics. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Morey Prize in art history given by the College Art Association of America. In 2003, he received the University of Chicago’s prestigious Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. His publications include: “The Pictorial Turn,” Artforum, March 1992; “What Do Pictures Want?” October, Summer 1996; What Do Pictures Want? (2005).

DESCRIPTION OF EVENT: This lecture is based in first-hand experiences with the twenty-year struggle of my son, Gabriel Mitchell, with schizophrenia, both the symptoms and the stigma of diagnosis. Gabriel was a talented, ambitious filmmaker whose film, "Crazy Talk," will be screened as part of my presentation. His work inspired me to plunge into research on the history of madness in media and visual culture as a way of enriching the "image archive" of mental illness. “Seeing Madness” is an exploration of the representation of insanity across a variety of media—photography, cinema, painting, opera, video, and literature. The paper interrogates the human fascination with extreme and abnormal mental and emotional states, and puts into question the adequacy of exclusively medical and scientific accounts of insanity. Collective as well as individual forms of mental disorder such as mass hysteria and paranoia will be considered, and the history of madness from ancient to modern cultures will be sketched.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES - At the conclusion of the event the participants will be able to:

  1. describe what schizophrenia feels like from the inside, and how it has been represented in film.
  2. discuss historical transformations in the verbal and visual representations of mental illness.
  3. observe the relation between individual and collective forms of insanity.

This presentation is designed for mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, with no regular registration fee.


No registration required. For more information contact Alicia Zaludova at 413-931-5230.

2 hours
Intended Audience: