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Diagnosing Madness

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About the Author

Carol Berkenkotter was a professor in the Writing Studies Department at the University of Minnesota until her death in 2016. She is the author of Patient Tales: Case Histories and the Uses of Narrative in Psychiatry and coauthor (with Thomas Huckin) of the award-winning Genre Knowledge in Disciplinary Communication: Cognition/Culture/Power.

Cristina Hanganu-Bresch is an associate professor of writing and rhetoric at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Her work on issues related to the rhetoric of health and psychiatry has appeared in Written Communication, Literature and Medicine, and edited collections. She is the coeditor with Justin Everett of Minefield of Dreams: Triumphs and Travails of Independent Writing Programs.


"Diagnosing Madness is a superb and highly readable rhetorical, linguistic, sociolinguistic, and literary analysis of the psychiatric argumentation practices and the life stories of individual mental patients before and after they were diagnosed--some wrongfully--in late nineteenth century Britain and America. Employing unique and rich archival research of asylum records and court proceedings as well as serialized novels, the authors reveal the medicolegal relationship between diagnosis and the concepts of normality, personhood, identity, and autonomy."--Mary Schuster, University of Minnesota

"Meticulously mining primary resources, Diagnosing Madness elegantly crafts a theoretically agile history of the medicolegal forces that made up the "lunatic" of nineteenth century America and Britain, and structured their consignment to an asylum. Tracking documents and influence into the twentieth century, the book is a major contribution to the current critical conversation about psychiatric diagnosis itself."--Judy Z. Segal, University of British Columbia

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