Madness And Civilization by Michel Foucault

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In this classic account of madness, Michel Foucault demonstrates why his position as one of the most distinguished of European philosophers since the end of World War II is beyond doubt; his influence dominates contemporary thinking. Madness and Civilization is Foucault's first major text and is seminal to the study of his work, since his other books expand on themes established here: power and imprisonment are at the very heart of this study. Evoking shock, pity and fascination, this book aims to change the way the reader thinks about society and the nature of selfhood."

Michel Foucault, who wrote Madness and Civilization, saw in the ship of fools a symbol of the consciousness of sin and evil alive in the medieval mindset and imaginative landscapes of the Renaissance. Though this critical angle conflates myth, allegory and history, scholars such as Jose Barchilion have found Foucault's words on the subject very insightful. In his introduction to Madness and Civilization, Barchilon writes of the Ship of Fools as if it were an example of actual societal practice:

"Renaissance men developed a delightful, yet horrible way of dealing with their mad denizens: they were put on a ship and entrusted to mariners because folly, water, and sea, as everyone then 'knew', had an affinity for each other. Thus, 'Ship of Fools' crisscrossed the sea and canals of Europe with their comic and pathetic cargo of souls. Some of them found pleasure and even a cure in the changing surroundings, in the isolation of being cast off, while others withdrew further, became worse, or died alone and away from their families. The cities and villages which had thus rid themselves of their crazed and crazy, could now take pleasure in watching the exciting sideshow when a ship full of foreign lunatics would dock at their harbors."
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