The article deals with both the socio-historical and literary dimensions of two places, the monastery and the psychiatric hospital, as well as with the charcacterization and the symbolic meaning they assume in the early nineteenth century German literature. Particularly in the German-speaking countries, a decisive turning point for the birth of what has been then called the "First Dynamic Psychiatry" can be found in the secularisation of the catholic monasteries. In short, the conventual walls have been carrying out the function of infrastructure establishing at the same time a first and yet significant model of treatment and detention of people affected by any kind of mental disorders. Thus monasteries stayed next to and sometimes replaced the state apparatus and the contemporary official medicine. Around 1800, the interest of writers, philosophers and intellectuals seemed to find its sharper focus on debating the mysterious phenomena of the human psyche along with the issues raised by psychiatry itself: dreams, sleepwalking, split of personality, the question of the divided self, multiple personality disorder, but also clairvoyance, spiritualism and the likes. At the very dawn of modern psychiatry, with its places of care and confinement, creative literature and the scientific discourse on human folly seemed to have found a meeting space, being the first one, literature, so fascinated by the still to be solved mysteries of the second, the human folly, to make it a source of a new creative impulse. The work of E.T.A Hoffmann makes for sure one of the finest examples among his contemporaries of such intertwining of literature and psychiatric issues. Therefore the last part of the article is dedicated to the analysis of Hoffmann's Elixiere des Teufels, a novel in which the most significant psychiatric instances of the times are thematised and discussed. Among them of particular relevance are a) the origin of a psychiatric nosology that locates in the schizophrenia and in the bipolar syndrome the two main forms of psychosis; b) the relationship between the two different and yet interchangeable places of the monastery and the asylum; c) the ambivalent judgement of the contemporaries on the role and function of the convents and on the life led by the monks themselves.
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