'A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason' by Michel Foucault (1961): 'Stultifera Navis'

Foucault in Uppsala, Sweden, circa mid to late 1950's.


We should not try to justify the old book, nor reinsert it into the present; the series of events to which it belongs, and which are its true law, are far from being over.

(Preface to the 1972 edition).


A selection from the opening chapter,
Stultifera Navis ('The Ship of Fools'), of Michel Foucault's Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique ('Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason'), 1961.

  • For a selection from the second chapter, The Great Confinement, see here.
  • For a selection from the chapter The Great Fear, see here.
  • For a selection from the chapter The Birth of the Asylum, see here.

Histori de la folie represents the culminating achievement of Foucault's first efforts (if we see Maladie mentale et personnalité, which he published in 1954, and his lengthy introduction to the translation of Binswanger's essay Traum und Existenz, 'Dream and Existence', as a kind of abortive effort, or at least a step along the way, in any case, left to fall by the wayside and give way to this much more voluminous work). From the point of view of the consideration of his various writings over the course of his life as constituting an oeuvre, it can been seen as his magnum opus.


From 'Dream, Imagination and Existence' (Foucault's introductory essay for the French translation of Binswanger's 'Dream and Existence'):

One cannot define the imaginary as the inverse function, the negative index, of reality. No doubt it develops readily on the ground of absence... . Yet it is also through the imaginary that the original meaning of reality is disclosed. Therefore, it cannot exclude reality. At the very heart of perception it can throw into bright light the secret and hidden power at work in the most manifest forms of presence.
[...]

It is the world at the dawn of its first explosion when it is still existence itself and is not yet the universe of objectivity.
[...]
One must... grant an absolute privilege, among all the signifying dimensions of existence, to that of ascent and fall, where alone can be discerned the temporality, the authenticity, and the historicity of existence. If one remains at the level of the other existential directions, one can never grasp existence in any but its constituted forms. One... could identify situations, define structures and modes of being, one could explore the modalities of Menschsein: but one must turn to the vertical dimension to grasp existence making itself, turn to the vertical dimension in that form of absolutely original presence in which Dasein is defined.

Editors note: see here for a selection from Foucault's 'Mentall Illness and Personality' (1954), and here for a selection from his 1973-74 lectures at Colege de France published as 'Psychiatric Power'.


From
James Miller's The Passion of Foucault (1992):

In an interview years later with the Italian journalist Duccio Trombadori, Foucault spoke with rare candour about the origins and personal significance of Madness and Civilization. Like all his books, it was, he confided, a means of "realizing direct, personal experiences." "I had had a personal, complex, and direct relationship with madness," he explained to Trombadori in 1978, "and also with death."
[Foucault] returned to the Hopital Sainte-Anne, one of the biggest and most modern psychiatric facilities in France, this time [not as a patient, but] to do research [as a student]. An unofficial intern, he helped conduct experiments in an electroencephalographic laboratory, learning how to analyze abnormalities in the electrical activity of the brain in order to diagnose brain injuries, epilepsy, and various neurological disorders. He also routinely visited the hospital with his students from the Ecole Normale in order to watch the public examination of patients by young doctors practicing their clinical technique. "I had a very strange status there," Foucault later recalled. "Nobody worried about what I should be doing; I was free to do anything. I was actually in a position between the staff and the patients." The ambiguity of his position, one imagines, was also heightened by his own recent brush with madness. "I had been mad enough to study reason," he later quipped: "I was reasonable enough to study madness." Maintaining "a distance from the staff," he began to experience a "kind of malaise." He spent a lot of time simply watching: "I felt very close to and not very different from the inmates." He observed the patients, and he observed how the doctors treated them. But "it was only years later when I started writing a book on the history of psychiatry that this malaise, this personal experience, took the form of a historical criticism."
First published in France in 1961, the book had been completed in draft form by 1958, when Foucault left Sweden for a job as cultural attache in Warsaw, Poland. Foucault had done [most of] his primary research while living in Uppsala.

As the deceptively modest subtitle puts it, the text offers a 'History of Madness in the Classical Age.' (As if to emphasize the sober historigraphic aspirations of his work, Foucault in the second French edition replaced the original title with this subtitle.).

A reader's first impression is of a work of magisterial authority, full of subtle distinctions and meticulous analysis. ... bold generealizations are hazarded, only to be hedged, qualified, carefully cicumscribed; the author's own convictions are insinuated more than argued, with a handful of memorable images leaving an impression that outweighs page after page of detail, often intricate historical documentation.
Foucault needed to choose his words carefully, for they would serve several functions simultaneously. A tacit monument to his own effort to "become what one is" [Nietzsche], the book also had to serve as Foucault's these principale, roughly the French equivalent of a doctoral dissertation... .

Setting the tone for the rest of the book is the stunning first chapter. A bravura feat of symbolic historiography, it weaves together archival research and mythic images in a rich and multifaceted allegory of madness... .

Among the first readers of Madness and Civilization were the professors assigned by the Sorbonne to evaluate the learning and scholarship of Foucault's doctoral thesis. [...] Despite reservations that only multiplied the longer they pondered the text, they all appreciated... its exceptional intelligence. But the book's central argument- and, even more, its intricate literary form- they found puzzling, even vaguely disturbing.

The first scholar to review the massive 943 page typescript was Georges Canguilhem, who had been appointed by the Sorbonne to clear the text for publication... .

...if Foucault was right, Canguilhem observed, then "every previous history of the origins of modern psychiatry was vitiated by the anarchonistic illusion that madness was already given- however unnoticed- in human nature."

That Foucault's hypothesis was historically fruitful, Canguilhem could not deny: the arguments and documentation in Foucault's manuscript had persuaded him that the development of the scientific concept of madness could not be separated from a history of 'social ethics'.
That Foucault's... treatment of madness had an unusual kinship with literature was obvious to both Canguilhem and Henri Gouhier, the Sorbonne historian who presided over Foucault's oral defense of his thesis. Canguilhem, for one, had urged Foucault to tone down his rhetoric and to drop certain passages that seemed to him too sweeping and peremptory, but the younger man had refused. Foucault was wed to the form of his work and would not change a word.
The peculiar and highly literary style of the work was, in fact, its single most disquieting feature. During Foucault's public thesis defense, Gouhier expressed his reservations, noting that the author "thinks in allegories." Foucault's thesis, he complained, repeatedly evoked the experience of madness "through mythological concepts" and fictional characters... . "It is these personifications," Gouhier acutely remarked, "that allow a sort of metaphysical incursion into history, and which in a fashion transform the narrative into epic, and history into an allegorical drama, bringing to life a philosophy."
 "Mister Foucault is certainly a writer," the jury conceded in its official written report on the oral thesis, but the author's indisputable talent left his interlocutors feeling uneasy. Again and again, Foucault seemed "to go spontaneously beyond the facts." Again and again, his style seemed to express "a certain 'valorization' of the experience of madness in the light of cases like that of Antonin Artaud."

The Book's message to historians is clear enough: after reading Madness and Civilization, it is impossible, as Canguilhem immediately grasped, to write a history of mental illness that assumes madness as a biological given.
 
"Madness is much more historical than is usually believed," Foucault wrote in Mental Illness and Psychology (1962), "and much younger too." In the preface he wrote for the first edition, Foucault described Histoire de la Folie as a work carried out "under the sun of the great Nietzschean inquirey." In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche showed
that the tragic structure from which the history of the Western world is made is nothing other than the refusal, the forgetting and the silent collapse of tragedy. Around that experience, which is central as it knots the tragic to the dialectic of history in the very refusal of tragedy by history, many other experiences gravitate.

What is required is a history of this great divide, all along this Occidental becoming... .

(Preface to the first edition)


From Foucault's Nietzschean Genealogy: Truth, Power, and the Subject, Michael Mahon, 2000:
According to Foucault, Nietzsche [in his 'Birth of Tragedy'] revealed the tragedy of the Western world to be the refusal of the tragic, and, therefore, the refusal of the sacred.

An indication of the books impact can be gleaned from the simple fact that nearly every book written on the history of psychiatry, asylums, and mental illness since its publication, has responded to it in some way or other:

The reactions of professional historians to Foucault's Histoire de la folie seem, at first reading, ambivalent, not to say polarized. There are many acknowledgements of its seminal role, beginning with Robert Mandrou's early review in Annales, characterizing it as a "beautiful book" that will be "of central importance for our understanding of the Classical period." Twenty years later, Michael MacDonald confirmed Mandrou's prophecy: "Anyone who writes about the history of insanity in early modern Europe must travel in the spreading wake of Michael Foucault's famous book, Madness and Civilization." Later endorsements have been even stronger. Jan Goldstein: "For both their empirical content and their powerful theoretical perspectives, the works of Michel Foucault occupy a special and central place in the historiography of psychiatry." Roy Porter: "Time has proved Madness and Civilization far the most penetrating work ever written on the history of madness." More specifically, Foucault has recently been heralded as a prophet of "the new cultural history."
But criticism has also been widespread and often bitter.

(Gary Gutting, Michel Foucault's Phanomenologie des Krankengeistes, 1994).


For the most part, overwhelmingly, in the English speaking world, the text was buried by lecture room historians and psychiatrists beneath a pile of 'scholarly criticism', its author regarded as a dupe of 'romantic illusions', 'errors in judgement', or 'yet another trick madness played' (and this, without any sense of irony) to lure the man in search of the truth off the path of illumination and into the 'boundless confusion', the 'night of madness', that surrounds it and which can only be avoided by the manly resolution-- never-tiring, unremitting-- to 'stay awake' and remain vigilant against the ever-present threat of madness, and thus disarmed of its strange powers of confrontation. Foucault's book has become burdened with playing the role of a kind of 'negative example', a lesson for students on the intoxicating power of the imagination, the dangers of words, their irreality and hyper-reality, and the fragility of Reason, but also demonstrating its mastery of folly and the calm confidence of its own certainty.

We can detect in the concern surrounding the text the sentiment Max Nordau expressed about a whole class of people (degenerates), exemplified in the realm of literature by Nietzsche, in his Degeneration [see here for my selection]:

Degenerates are not always criminals, prostitutes, anarchists, and pronounced lunatics; they are often authors and artists. These, however, manifest the same mental characteristics, and for the most part the same somatic features, as the members of the above-mentioned anthropological family, who satisfy their unhealthy impulses with the knife of the assassin or the bomb of the dynamiter, instead of with pen and pencil.
Some among these degenerates in literature, music, and painting have in recent years come into extraordinary prominence, and are revered by numerous admirers as creators of a new art, and heralds of the coming centuries. This phenomenon is not to be disregarded. Books and works of art exercise a powerful suggestion on the masses. It is from these productions that an age derives its ideals of morality and beauty. If they are absurd and anti-social, they exert a disturbing and corrupting influence on the views of a whole generation. Hence the latter, especially the impressionable youth, easily excited to enthusiasm for all that is strange and seemingly new, must be warned and enlightened as to the real nature of the creations so blindly admired.


In the dust jacket of the first edition in French, Foucault (at least it is presumed to be Foucault, speaking of himself in the third person) tells the reader, in a play on the double meaning of 'asylum', that the author, having lived in northern Europe and west Germany after its liberation from fascism, knows a thing or two about what it means to live in an asylum.

If Foucault's book testifies to a madness, then a question for its reader is to what extent it is their own. If we do not recognize ourselves in it then he is, pitilessly, burdened with bearing it alone. But if we recognize ourselves in it then we can 'forget Foucault' and the author will have died a symbolic death. Maybe then, when Foucault's book belongs not to the 'rupture' of language and the 'constitutive moment of the abolition of the work of art' but to its resources, will we find ourselves in the future dreamed of in the epilogue ('Madness, the Absence of an Oeuvre').



Publication history:

From Rewriting the History of Madness: Studies in Foucault's Histoire de la Folie, Edited by Arthur Still and Irving Velody, 1992

Foucault's thesis was published in book form as: Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique (Paris: Plon 1961). A truncated pocket edition was published as Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique in 1964 (Paris: UGE). The first edition was subsequently reissued in an expanded form by Gallimard in 1972, with a new preface by Foucault, and now included two essays as appendices; but the revised title Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique was retained. Meanwhile, Richard Howard's translation of the shortened version with some additional material appeared in 1965 under the title Madness and Civilization (New York: Pantheon).

R
ichard Howards translation of the abridged French text, Madness and Civilization (subtitled A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason), was the only version available in English (although a full translation was rendered into German and Italian), until Routledge published a complete translation in 2006 bearing the title History of Madness. "Foucault's History of Madness", wrote Jean Kalfa in the introduction of his new translation, "has yet to be read."

Both English translations have been drawn upon in making this selection. Howard's first translation has been privileged over Kalfa's more recent one (in his review of the new complete translation, Colin Gordon suggested that "Routledge might have done better to retain and complete the Howard translation" rather than make a completely new one), for the efficacy and clarity of its style, and the latter has only been used to fill in the gaps in the text left out of the abridgement, except in some rare instances where both were available and the second translation was favoured over the first (for purposes of clarity), so that the result is a hybrid text, an attempt to piece together an authoritative English language version which incorporates the strengths of both available translations, independently of the original French edition, regarding both translations purely in their own words.


My desire is that this object-event, almost imperceptible among so many others, should recopy, fragment, repeat, simulate and replicate itself, and finally disappear without the person who happened to produce it ever being able to claim the right to be its master, to impose what he wants to say, or say what he should say.

Preface to the 1972 edition.





  



  
Danse Macabre in St. Mary's Church, Lübecker, by Bernt Notke (destroyed in a bombing raid in 1942)
Danse Macabre in St. Nicholas' Church, Tallinn, by Bernt Notke

Danse Macabre at the Chaise-Dieu, circa 1470.
 

 


Thierry Bouts, Hell, 1450.

Hans Memling, Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation, 1485.

  Death Taking The Pope And The Emperor From The Danse Macabre by Guy Marchant 1486.
Michaelangelo, The Torment of St. Anthony, circa 1488
Durer's Frontpiece to Sabastian Brants Ship of Fools 1494. 
Bernardino Parenzano, The Temptation of St. Anthony, 1494.

 'Of Useless Books', woodcut for the Latin edition of Brants Ship of Fools, 1497.

Albert Durer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1498
Josse Bade, Navicula Stultarum Mulierum, 1498.
Hieronymus Bosch, Diptyche with The Ship of fools, circa 1500.

Hieronymous Bosch, detail of the Garden of Earthly Delights, 1503.
Hieronymus Bosch, The Temptation of St. Anthony triptych, circa 1505.


 Marginal drawing of Folly by Hans Holbein in the first edition of Erasmus's Praise of Folly, 1515.
Matthias Grunewald, The Temptation of St. Anthony from the Isenheim Altarpiece, 1516.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Triumph of Death, circa 1562.


Piwrwe Bruegel the Elder, Mad Meg, 1564.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Lepers, 1568.
Fools cap world map, c 1590.






Preface

Pascal: "Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness" [alt trans. 'Men are so necessarily mad, that not being mad would be being mad through another trick that madness played']. And Dostoievsky, in his Diary of a Writer: "It is not by confining one's neighbor that one is convinced of one's own sanity."


We have yet to write the history of that other form of madness, by which men, in an act of sovereign reason, confine their neighbors, and communicate and recognize each other through the merciless language of non-madness. [...] We must try to return, in history, to that zero point in the course of madness at which madness is an undifferentiated experience, a not yet divided experience of division itself. We must describe, from the start of its trajectory, that "other form" which relegates Reason and Madness to one side or other of its action as things henceforth external, deaf to all exchange, and as though dead to one another.
This is doubtless an uncomfortable region. To explore it we must renounce the convenience of terminal truths... . None of the concepts of psychopathology, even and especially in the implicit process of retrospection, can play an organizing role. What is constitutive is the action that divides madness, and not the science elaborated once this division is made and calm restored.

As for a common language, there is no such thing; or rather, there is no such thing any longer; the constitution of madness as a mental illness, at the end of the eighteenth century, affords the evidence of a broken dialogue, posits the separation as already effected, and thrusts into oblivion all those stammered, imperfect words without fixed syntax in which the exchange between madness and reason was made. The language of psychiatry, which is a monologue of reason about madness, has been established only on the basis of such a silence.


...the Reason-Unreason relation constitutes for Western culture one of the dimensions of its originality... .
But what then is this confrontation below the language of reason? Where might this interrogation lead, following not reason in its horizontal becoming, but seeking to retrace in time this constant verticality, which, the length of Western culture, confronts it with what it is not, measuring it with its own extravagance?

At the centre of these limit-experiences of the Western world is the explosion, of course, of the tragic itself-- Nietzsche having shown [i.e., in his Birth of Tragedy] that the tragic structure from which the history of the Western world is made is nothing other than the refusal, the forgetting and the silent collapse of tragedy. Around that experience, which is central as it knots the tragic to the dialectic of history in the very refusal of tragedy by history, many other experiences gravitate. Each one, at the frontiers of our culture, traces a limit that simultaneously signifies an original division.
In the universality of the Western ratio, there is this division which is the Orient: the Orient, thought of as the origin, dreamt of as the vertiginous point from which nostalgia and promises of return are born, the Orient offered to the colonising reason of the Occident, but indefinitely inaccessible, for it always remains the limit: the night of the beginning, in which the Occident was formed, but in which it traced a dividing line, the Orient is for the Occident everything that it is not, while remaining the place in which its primitive truth must be sought. What is required is a history of this great divide, all along this Occidental becoming, following it in its continuity and its exchanges, while also allowing it to appear in its tragic hieratism.


Companions in pathos, who barely murmur, go with your lamp spent and return the jewels. A new mystery sings in your bones. Cultivate your legitimate strangeness.









Stultifera Navis


 


 
At the end of the Middle Ages, leprosy disappeared from the Western world. In the margins of the community, at the gates of cities, there stretched wastelands which sickness had ceased to haunt but had left sterile and long uninhabitable. For centuries, these reaches would belong to the non-human. From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, they would wait, soliciting with strange incantations a new incarnation of disease, another grimace of terror, renewed rites of purification and exclusion.
From the High Middle Ages to the end of the Crusades, leprosariums had multiplied their cities of the damned over the entire face of Europe. [...] ...we shall hear their names again in the history of another sickness... . 

 A strange disappearance, which was doubtless not the long sought effect of obscure medical practices, but the spontaneous result of segregation and also the consequence, after the Crusades, of the break with the Eastern sources of infection. Leprosy withdrew, leaving derelict these low places and these rites which were intended, not to suppress it, but to keep it at a sacred distance, to fix it in an inverse exhaltation. What doubtless remained longer than leprosy, and would persist when the lazar houses had been empty for years, were the values and images attached to the figure of the leper as well as the meaning of his exclusion, the social importance of that insistent and fearful figure which was not driven off without first being inscribed within a sacred circle.
If the leper was removed from the world, and from the community of the Church visible, his existence was yet a constant manifestation of God, since it was a sign both of His anger and of His grace: "My friend," says the ritual of the Church of Vienne, "it pleaseth Our Lord that thou shouldst be infected with this malady, and thou hast great grace at the hands of Our Lord that he desireth to punish thee for thy iniquities in this world." And at the very moment when the priest and his assistants drag him out of the church with backward step, the leper is assured that he still bears witness for God: "And howsoever thou mayest be apart from the Church and the company of the Sound, yet art thou not apart from the grace of God." Brueghel's lepers attend at a distance, but forever, that climb to Calvary on which the entire people accompanies Christ. Hieratic witnesses of evil, they accomplish their salvation in and by their very exclusion: in a strange reversibility that is the opposite of good works and prayer, they are saved by the hand that is not stretched out. The sinner who abandons the leper at his door opens his way to heaven. "For which have patience in thy malady; for Our Lord hateth thee not because of it, keepeth thee not from his company; but if thou hast patience thou wilt be saved, as was the leper who died before the gate of the rich man and was carried straight to paradise." Abandonment is his salvation; his exclusion offers him another form of communion.
Leprosy disappeared, the leper vanished, or almost, from memory; these structures remained. Often, in these same places, the formulas of exclusion would be repeated, strangely similar two or three centuries later. Poor vagabonds, criminals, and "deranged minds" would take the part played by the leper, and we shall see what salvation was expected from this exclusion, for them and for those who excluded them as well. With an altogether new meaning and in a very different culture, the forms would remain-essentially that major form of a rigorous division which is social exclusion but spiritual reintegration.

The role that leprosy had played was first taken by venereal disease. Such diseases were the natural heir to leprosy in the late fifteenth century, and the disease was treated in several leper hospitals. [...] Soon the disease was so common that the construction of special buildings was being considered 'in certain spacious areas surrounding towns and suburbs, segregated from passers-by'. A new leprosy was born, which took the place of the former, but... these new lepers too struck fear into the hearts of the old.
Lepers were far from overjoyed at being forced to share their space with these newcomers to the world of horror: 'This astonishing and contagious disease is much to be feared: even the lepers themselves reject it in horror, and refuse to permit those who have contracted the disease to keep their company'. But despite their longstanding right to stay in these segregated areas, there were too few of them... , and the venereal, more or less everywhere, had soon taken their place.
Yet in the classical age it was not venereal diseases that would take over the role that leprosy had played in medieval culture... . [...] It is not in venereal disease that the true heir of leprosy should be sought, but [in madness].
But only after a long latency period of almost two centuries did that new obsession take the place of the fear that leprosy had instilled... , and elicit similiar reactions of division, exclusion and purification, which are akin to madness itself. But before madness was brought under control towards the mid-seventeenth century, and before ancient rituals were resuscitated in its honour, it was linked obstinately to many of the major experiences of the Renaissance.
A brief overview of this presence and some of the essential figures is now in order.

The simplest of these figures is also the most symbolic.
Something new appears in the imaginary landscape of the Renaissance; soon it will occupy a privileged place there: the Ship of Fools, a strange "drunken boat" that glides along the calm rivers of the Rhineland and the Flemish canals.
The Narrenschiff, of course, is a literary composition, probably borrowed from the old Argonaut cycle, one of the great mythic themes recently revived and rejuvenated, acquiring an institutional aspect in the Burgundy Estates. Fashion favored the composition of these Ships, whose crew of imaginary heroes, ethical models, or social types embarked on a great symbolic voyage which would bring them, if not fortune, then at least the figure of their destiny or their truth. Thus Symphorien Champier composes a Ship of Princes and Battles of Nobility in 1502, then a Ship of Virtuous Ladies in 1503; there is also a Ship of Health, alongside the Blauive Schute of Jacob van Oestvoren in 1413, Sebastian Brant's Narrenschiff in 1494, and the work of Josse Bade-Stultiferae naviculae scaphae fatuarum mulierum in 1498. Bosch's painting, of course, belongs to this dream fleet.

But of all these romantic or satiric vessels, the Narrenschiff is the only one that had a real existence--  for they did exist, these boats that conveyed their insane cargo from town to town. An itinerant existence was often the lot of the mad. The towns drove them outside their limits; they were allowed to wander in the open countryside, when not entrusted to a group of merchants and pilgrims. The custom was especially frequent in Germany; in Nuremberg, in the first half of the fifteenth century, the presence of 63 madmen had been registered; 31 were driven away; in the fifty years that followed, there are records of 21 more obligatory departures... . Frequently they were handed over to boatmen... . Sometimes the sailors disembarked these bothersome passengers sooner than they had promised... . 
It is not easy to discover the exact meaning of this custom. One might suppose it was a general means of extradition by which municipalities sent wandering madmen out of their own jurisdiction; a hypothesis which will not in itself account for the facts, since certain madmen, even before special houses were built for them, were admitted to hospitals and cared for as such; at the Hotel-Dieu in Paris, their cots were set up in the dormitories. Moreover, in the majority of the cities of Europe there existed throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance a place of detention reserved for the insane; there was for example the Chateau of Melun or the famous Tour aux Fous [Tower of Fools, Germ. Narrtumer] in Caen; there were the numberless Narrtumer of Germany, like the gates of Lubeck or the Jungpfer of Hamburg. Madmen were thus not invariably expelled. One might then speculate that among them only foreigners were driven away, each city agreeing to care for those madmen among its own citizens. Do we not in fact find among the account books of certain medieval cities subsidies for madmen or donations made for the care of the insane? However, the problem is not so simple, for there existed gathering places where the madmen, more numerous than elsewhere, were not autochthonous. First come the shrines: Saint-Mathurin de Larchant, Saint-Hildevert de Gournay, Besancon, Gheel; pilgrimages to these places were organized, often supported, by cities or hospitals. It is possible that these ships of fools, which haunted the imagination of the entire early Renaissance, were pilgrimage boats, highly symbolic cargoes of madmen in search of their reason: some went down the Rhineland rivers towards Belgium and Gheel; others sailed up the Rhine toward the Jura and Besancon.
But other cities, like Nuremberg, were certainly not shrines and yet contained great numbers of madmen-- many more, in any case, than could have been furnished by the city itself. These madmen were housed and provided for in the city budget, and yet they were not given treatment; they were simply thrown into prison. We may suppose that in certain important cities-- centers of travel and markets-- madmen had been brought in considerable numbers by merchants and mariners and 'lost' there, thus ridding their native cities of their presence. It may have happened that these places of 'counterpilgrimage' have become confused with the places where, on the contrary, the insane were taken as pilgrims. Interest in cure and in exclusion coincide: madmen were confined in the holy locus of a miracle. It is possible that the village of Gheel [under the patronage of Saint Dymphna, whose 7th century legend was attached to the place] developed in this manner-- a shrine that became a ward, a holy land where madness hoped for deliverance... .

What matters is that the vagabond madmen, the act of driving them away, their departure and embarkation do not assume their entire significance on the plane of social utility or security. Other meanings much closer to rite are certainly present; and we can still discern some traces of them. [...] ...the expulsion of madmen had become one of a number of ritual exiles.
Thus we better understand the curious implication assigned to the navigation of madmen and the prestige attending it. [...] ...to hand a madman over to sailors was to be permanently sure he would not be prowling beneath the city walls; it made sure that he would go far away; it made him a prisoner of his own departure. But water adds to this the dark mass of its own values; it carries off, but it does more: it purifies. Navigation delivers man to the uncertainty of fate; on water, each of us is in the hands of his own destiny; every embarkation is, potentially, the last. It is for the other world that the madman sets sail in his fools' boat; it is from the other world that he comes when he disembarks. The madman's voyage is at once a rigorous division and an absolute Passage. In one sense, it simply develops, across a half-real, half-imaginary geography, the madman's liminal position on the horizon of medieval concern—a position symbolized and made real at the same time by the madman's privilege of being confined within the city gates: his exclusion must enclose him; if he cannot and must not have another prison than the threshold itself, he is kept at the point of passage. He is put in the interior of the exterior, and inversely. A highly symbolic position, which will doubtless remain his until our own day, if we are willing to admit that what was formerly a visible fortress of order has now become the castle of our conscience.
Water and navigation certainly play this role. Confined on the ship, from which there is no escape, the madman is delivered to the river with its thousand arms, the sea with its thousand roads, to that great uncertainty external to everything. He is a prisoner in the midst of what is the freest, the openest of routes: bound fast at the infinite crossroads. He is the Passenger par excellence: that is, the prisoner of the passage. And the land he will come to is unknown— as is, once he disembarks, the land from which he comes. He has his truth and his homeland only in that fruitless expanse between two countries that cannot belong to him. [...] One thing at least is certain: water and madness have long been linked in the dreams of European man.

...more than once in the course of time, the same theme reappears: among the mystics of the fifteenth century, it has become the motif of the soul as a skiff, abandoned on the infinite sea of desires, in the sterile field of cares and ignorance, among the mirages of knowledge, amid the unreason of the world—a craft at the mercy of the sea's great madness, unless it throws out a solid anchor, faith, or raises its spiritual sails so that the breath of God may bring it to port. At the end of the sixteenth century, De Lancre sees in the sea the origin of the demoniacal leanings of an entire people: the hazardous labor of ships, dependence on the stars, hereditary secrets, estrangement from women—the very image of the great, turbulent plain itself makes man lose faith in God and all his attachment to his home; he is then in the hands of the Devil, in the sea of Satan's ruses. [...] ...neglecting an immense literature that stretches from Ophelia to the Lorelei, let us note only the great half-anthropological, half-cosmological analyses of Heinroth, which interpret madness as the manifestation in man of an obscure and aquatic element, a dark disorder, a moving chaos, the seed and death of all things, which opposes the mind's luminous and adult stability.
But if the navigation of madmen is linked in the Western mind with so many immemorial motifs, why, so abruptly, in the fifteenth century, is the theme suddenly formulated in literature and iconography? Why does the figure of the Ship of Fools and its insane crew all at once invade the most familiar landscapes? Why, from the old union of water and madness, was this ship born one day, and on just that day?
Because it symbolized a great disquiet, suddenly dawning on the horizon of European culture at the end of the Middle Ages. Madness and the madman become major figures, in their ambiguity: menace and mockery, the dizzying unreason of the world, and the feeble ridicule of men.
First a whole literature of tales and moral fables, in origin, doubtless, quite remote. But by the end of the Middle Ages, it bulks large: a long series of "follies" which, stigmatizing vices and faults as in the past, no longer attribute them all to pride, to lack of charity, to neglect of Christian virtues, but to a sort of great unreason for which nothing, in fact, is exactly responsible, but which involves everyone in a kind of secret complicity. The denunciation of madness (la folie) becomes the general form of criticism.
In farces and sorties, the character of the Madman, the Fool, or the Simpleton assumes more and more importance. He is no longer simply a ridiculous and familiar silhouette in the wings: he stands center stage as the guardian of truth-- playing here a role which is the complement and converse of that taken by madness in the tales and the satires. If folly leads each man into a blindness where he is lost, the madman, on the contrary, reminds each man of his truth; in a comedy where each man deceives the other and dupes himself, the madman is comedy to the second degree: the deception of deception; he utters, in his simpleton's language which makes no show of reason, the words of reason that release, in the comic, the comedy: he speaks love to lovers, the truth of life to the young, the middling reality of things to the proud, to the insolent, and to liars. Even the old feasts of fools, so popular in Flanders and northern Europe, were theatrical events, and organized into social and moral criticism, whatever they may have contained of spontaneous religious parody.
In learned literature, too, Madness or Folly was at work, at the very heart of reason and truth. It is Folly which embarks all men without distinction on its insane ship and binds them to the vocation of a common odyssey (Van Oestvoren's Blauwe Schute, Brant's Narrenschiff); it is Folly whose baleful reign Thomas Mumer conjures up in his Narrenbeschwonmg; it is Folly which gets the best of Love in Corroz's satire Centre fol amour, or argues with Love as to which of the two comes first, which of the two makes the other possible, and triumphs in Louise Labe's dialogue, Debat de folie et d'amour. Folly also has its academic pastimes; it is the object of argument, it contends against itself; it is denounced, and defends itself by claiming that it is closer to happiness and truth than reason, that it is closer to reason than reason itself... . Finally, at the center of all these serious games, the great humanist texts: the Moria rediviva of Flayder and Erasmus's Praise of Folly. And confronting all these discussions, with their tireless dialectic, confronting these discourses constantly reworded and reworked, a long dynasty of images, from Hieronymus Bosch with The Cure of Madness and The Ship of Fools, down to Brueghel and his Dulle Griet, woodcuts and engravings transcribe what the theater, what literature and art have already taken up: the intermingled themes of the Feast and of the Dance of Fools. Indeed, from the fifteenth century on, the face of madness has haunted the imagination of Western man.
A sequence of Dates speaks for itself: the Dance of Death in the Cimetiere des Innocents doubtless dates from the first years of the fifteenth century, the one in the Chaise-Dieu was probably composed around 1460; and it was in 1485 that Gyuot Marchant published his Danse Macarbe. These sixty years, certainly, were dominated by all this grinning imagery of death. And it was in 1494 that Brant wrote the Narrenschiff; in 1497 it was translated into Latin. In the very last years of the century Hieronymus Bosch painted his Ship of Fools. The Praise of Folly dates from 1509. The order of succession is clear.
Up to the second half of the fifteenth century, or even a little beyond, the theme of death reigns alone. The end of man, the end of time bear the face of pestilence and war. What overhangs human existence is this conclusion and this order from which nothing escapes. The presence that threatens even within this world is a fleshless one. Then in the last years of the century this enormous uneasiness turns on itself; the mockery of madness replaces death and its solemnity. From the discovery of that necessity which inevitably reduces man to nothing, we have shifted to the scornful contemplation of that nothing which is existence itself. Fear in the face of the absolute limit of death turns inward in continuous irony; man disarms it in advance, making it an object of derision by giving it an everyday, tamed form, by constantly renewing it in the spectacle of life, by scattering it throughout the vices, the difficulties, and the absurdities of all men. Death's annihilation is no longer anything because it was already everything, because life itself was only futility, vain words, a squabble of cap and bells. The head that will become the skull is already empty. Madness is the deja-la of death. But it is also its vanquished presence, evaded in those everyday signs which, announcing that death reigns already, indicate that its prey will be a sorry prize indeed. What death unmasks was never more than a mask; to discover the grin of the skeleton, one need only lift off something that was neither beauty nor truth, but only a plaster and tinsel face. From the vain mask to the corpse, the same smile persists. But when the madman laughs, he already laughs with the laugh of death; the lunatic, anticipating the macabre, has disarmed it.

The substitution of the theme of madness for that of death does not mark a break, but rather a torsion within the same anxiety. What is in question is still the nothingness of existence, but this nothingness is no longer considered an external, final term, both threat and conclusion; it is experienced from within as a continuous and constant form of existence. And where once man's madness had been not to see that death's term was approaching, so that it was necessary to recall him to wisdom with the spectacle of death ['Momento mori'], now wisdom consisted of denouncing madness everywhere, teaching men that they were no more than dead men already, and that if the end was near, it was to the degree that madness, become universal, would be one and the same with death itself. This is what Eustache Deschamps prophesies:

We are cowardly and weak,
Covetous, old, evil-tongued.
Fools are all I see, in truth.
The end is near, All goes ill...
   
The elements are now reversed. It is no longer the end of time and of the world which will show retrospectively that men were mad not to have been prepared for them; it is the tide of madness, its secret invasion, that shows that the world is near its final catastrophe; it is man's insanity that invokes and makes necessary the world's end.

In its various forms—plastic or literary—this experience of madness seems extremely coherent. Painting and text constantly refer to one  another— commentary here and illustration there. We find the same theme of the Narrentanz over and over in popular festivals, in theatrical performances, in engravings and woodcuts, and the entire last part of the Praise of Folly is constructed on the model of a long dance of madmen in which each profession and each estate parades in turn to form the great round of unreason. It is likely that in Bosch's Temptation of Saint Anthony in Lisbon, many figures of the fantastic fauna which invade the canvas are borrowed from traditional masks; some perhaps are transferred from the Malleus maleficarum. As for the famous Ship of Fools, is it not a direct translation of Brant's Narrenschiff, whose title it bears, and of which it seems to illustrate quite precisely canto XXVII, also consecrated to stigmatizing "drunkards and gluttons"? It has even been suggested that Bosch's painting was part of a series of pictures illustrating the principal cantos of Brant's poem.
As a matter of fact, we must not be misled by what appears to be a strict continuity in these themes, nor imagine more than is revealed by history itself. It is unlikely that an analysis like the one Emile Male worked out for the preceding epochs, especially apropos of the theme of death, could be repeated. Between word and image, between what is depicted by language and what is uttered by plastic form, the unity begins to dissolve; a single and identical meaning is not immediately common to them. And if it is true that the image still has the function of speaking, of transmitting something consubstantial with language, we must recognize that it already no longer says the same thing; and that by its own plastic values painting engages in an experiment that will take it farther and farther from language, whatever the superficial identity of the theme. Figure and speech still illustrate the same fable of folly in the same moral world, but already they take two different directions, indicating, in a still barely perceptible scission, what will be the great line of cleavage in the Western experience of madness.
The dawn of madness on the horizon of the Renaissance is first perceptible in the decay of Gothic symbolism; as if that world, whose network of spiritual meanings was so close-knit, had begun to unravel, showing faces whose meaning was no longer clear except in the forms of madness. The Gothic forms persist for a time, but little by little they grow silent, cease to... teach anything but their own fantastic presence, transcending all possible language (though still familiar to the eye). Freed from wisdom and from the teaching that organized it, the image begins to gravitate about its own madness.
Paradoxically, this liberation derives from a proliferation of meaning, from a self-multiplication of significance, weaving relationships so numerous, so intertwined, so rich, that they can no longer be deciphered except in the esoterism of knowledge. Things themselves become so burdened with attributes, signs, allusions that they finally lose their own form. Meaning is no longer read in an immediate perception, the figure no longer speaks for itself; between the knowledge which animates it and the form into which it is transposed, a gap widens. It is free for the dream. One book bears witness to meaning's proliferation at the end of the Gothic world, the Speculum humanae salvationis (Mirror of Human Salvation], which, beyond all the correspondences established by the patristic tradition, elaborates, between the Old and the New Testament, a symbolism not on the order of Prophecy, but deriving from an equivalence of imagery. The Passion of Christ is not prefigured only by the sacrifice of Abraham; it is surrounded by all the glories of torture and its innumerable dreams; Tubal the blacksmith and Isaiah's wheel take their places around the Cross, forming beyond all the lessons of the sacrifice the fantastic tableau of savagery, of tormented bodies, and of suffering. Thus the image is burdened with supplementary meanings, and forced to express them. And dreams, madness, the unreasonable can also slip into this excess of meaning. The symbolic figures easily become nightmare silhouettes. Witness that old image of wisdom so often translated, in German engravings, by a longnecked bird whose thoughts, rising slowly from heart to head, have time to be weighed and reflected on; a symbol whose values are blunted by being overemphasized: the long path of reflection becomes in the image the alembic of a subtle learning, an instrument which distills quintessences. The neck of the Gutemensch is endlessly elongated, the better to illustrate, beyond wisdom, all the real mediations of knowledge; and the symbolic man becomes a fantastic bird whose disproportionate neck folds a thousand times upon itself—an insane being, halfway between animal and thing, closer to the charms of an image than to the rigor of a meaning. This symbolic wisdom  is a prisoner of the madness of dreams.
A fundamental conversion of the world of images: the constraint of a multiplied meaning liberates that world from the control of form. So many diverse meanings are established beneath the surface of the image that it presents only an enigmatic face. And its power is no longer to teach but to fascinate. Characteristic is the evolution of the famous gryllos already familiar to the Middle Ages in the English psalters, and at Chartres and Bourges. It taught, then, how the soul of desiring man had become a prisoner of the beast; these grotesque faces set in the bellies of monsters belonged to the world of the great Platonic metaphor and denounced the spirit's corruption in the folly of sin. But in the fifteenth century the gryllos, image of human madness, becomes one of the preferred figures in the countless Temptations. What assails the hermit's tranquility is not objects of desire, but these hermetic, demented forms which have risen from a dream, and remain silent and furtive on the surface of a world. In the Lisbon Temptation, facing Saint Anthony sits one of these figures born of madness, of its solitude, of its penitence, of its privations; a wan smile lights this bodiless face, the pure presence of anxiety in the form of an agile grimace. Now it is exactly this nightmare silhouette that is at once the subject and object of the temptation; it is this figure which fascinates the gaze of the ascetic— both are prisoners of a kind of mirror interrogation, which remains unanswered in a silence inhabited only by the monstrous swarm that surrounds them. The gryllos no longer recalls man, by its satiric form, to his spiritual vocation forgotten in the folly of desire. It is madness become Temptation; all it embodies of the impossible, the fantastic, the inhuman, all that suggests the unnatural, the writhing of an insane presence on the earth's surface-all this is precisely what gives the gryllos its strange power. The freedom, however frightening, of his dreams, the hallucinations of his madness, have more power of attraction for fifteenth-century man than the desirable reality of the flesh.
What then is this fascination which now operates through the images of madness?
First, man finds in these fantastic figures one of the secrets and one of the vocations of his nature. In the thought of the Middle Ages, the legions of animals, named once and for all by Adam, symbolically bear the values of humanity. But at the beginning of the Renaissance, the relations with animality are reversed; the beast is set free; it escapes the world of legend and moral illustration to acquire a fantastic nature of its own. And by an astonishing reversal, it is now the animal that will stalk man, capture him, and reveal him to his own truth. Impossible animals, issuing from a demented imagination, become the secret nature of man; and when on the Last Day sinful man appears in his hideous nakedness, we see that he has the monstrous shape of a delirious animal; these are the screech owls whose toad bodies combine, in Thierry Bouts's Hell, with the nakedness of the damned; these are Stephan Lochner's winged insects with cats' heads, sphinxes with beetles' wing cases, birds whose wings are as disturbing and as avid as hands; this is the great beast of prey with knotty fingers that figures in Matthias Grunewald's Temptation. Animality has escaped domestication by human symbols and values; and it is animality that reveals the dark rage, the sterile madness that lie in men's hearts.
At the opposite pole to this nature of shadows, madness fascinates because it is knowledge. It is knowledge, first, because all these absurd figures are in reality elements of a difficult, hermetic, esoteric learning. These strange forms are situated, from the first, in the space of the Great Secret, and the Saint Anthony who is tempted by them is not a victim of the violence of desire but of the much more insidious lure of curiosity; he is tempted by that distant and intimate knowledge which is offered, and at the same time evaded, by the smile of the gryllos; his backward movement is nothing but that step by which he keeps from crossing the forbidden limits of knowledge; he knows already— and that is his temptation—what Jerome Cardan will say later: "Wisdom, like other precious substances, must be torn from the bowels of the earth." [Editors Note: Francis Bacon said: "If then it be true that Democritus said, That the truth of nature lieth hid in certain deep mines and caves, and if it be true likewise that the alchemists do so much inculcate, that Vulcan is a second nature, and imitateth that dexterously and compendiously, which nature worketh by ambages and length of time, it were good to divide natural philosophy into the mine and the furnace: and to make two professions or occupations of natural philosophers, some to be pioneers and some smiths; some to dig, and some to refine and hammer."] This knowledge, so inaccessible, so formidable, the Fool, in his innocent idiocy, already possesses. While the man of reason and wisdom perceives only fragmentary and all the more unnerving images of it, the Fool bears it intact as an unbroken sphere: that crystal ball which for all others is empty is in his eyes filled with the density of an invisible knowledge. Brueghel mocks the sick man who tries to penetrate this crystal sphere, but it is this iridescent bubble of knowledge—an absurd but infinitely precious lantern—that sways at the end of the stick Dulle Griet bears on her shoulder. And it is this sphere which figures on the reverse of the Garden of Delights. Another symbol of knowledge, the tree (the forbidden tree, the tree of promised immortality and of sin), once planted in the heart of the earthly paradise, has been uprooted and now forms the mast of the Ship of Fools, as seen in the engraving that illustrates Josse Bade's Stultiferae Naviculae; it is this tree, without a doubt, that sways over Bosch's Ship of Fools.
What does it presage, this wisdom of fools? Doubtless, since it is a forbidden wisdom, it presages both the reign of Satan and the end of the world; ultimate bliss and supreme punishment; omnipotence on earth and the infernal fall. The Ship of Fools sails through a landscape of delights, where all is offered to desire, a sort of renewed paradise, since here man no longer knows either suffering or need; and yet he has not recovered his innocence. This false happiness is the diabolical triumph of the Antichrist; it is the End, already at hand. Apocalyptic dreams are not new, it is true, in the fifteenth century; they are, however, very different in nature from what they had been earlier. The delicately fantastic iconography of the fourteenth century, where castles are toppled like dice, where the Beast is always the traditional dragon held at bay by the Virgin, in short where the order of God and its imminent victory are always apparent, gives way to a vision of the world where all wisdom is annihilated. This is the great witches' Sabbath of nature: mountains melt and become plains, the earth vomits up the dead and bones tumble out of tombs; the stars fall, the earth catches fire, all life withers and comes to death. The end has no value as passage and promise; it is the advent of a night in which the world's old reason is engulfed. It is enough to look at Durer's Horsemen of the Apocalypse, sent by God Himself: these are no angels of triumph and reconciliation; these are no heralds of serene justice, but the disheveled warriors of a mad vengeance. The world sinks into universal Fury. Victory is neither God's nor the Devil's: it belongs to Madness.
On all sides, madness fascinates man. The fantastic images it generates are not fleeting appearances that quickly disappear from the surface of things. By a strange paradox, what is born from the strangest delirium was already hidden, like a secret, like an inaccessible truth, in the bowels of the earth. [...] In such images— and this is doubtless what gives them their weight, what imposes such great coherence on their fantasy—the Renaissance has expressed what it apprehended of the threats and secrets of the world.

During the same period, the literary, philosophical, and moral themes of madness are in an altogether different vein.
The Middle Ages had given madness, or folly, a place in the hierarchy of vices. Beginning with the thirteenth century, it is customarily ranked among the wicked soldiers of the psychomachy. It figures, at Paris as at Amiens, among the evil soldiery, and is among the twelve dualities that dispute the sovereignty of the human soul: Faith and Idolatry, Hope and Despair, Charity and Avarice, Chastity and Lust, Prudence and Folly, Patience and Anger, Gentleness and Harshness, Concord and Discord, Obedience and Rebellion, Perseverance and Inconstancy, Fortitude and Cowardice, Humility and Pride. In the Renaissance, Folly leaves this modest place and comes to the fore. Whereas according to Hugues de Saint-Victor the genealogical tree of the Vices, that of the Old Adam, had pride as its root, Folly now leads the joyous throng of all human weaknesses. Uncontested coryphaeus ['leader of the chorus'], she guides them, sweeps them on, and names them: "Recognize them here, in the group of my companions.... She whose brows are drawn is Philautia (Self-Love). She whom you see laugh with her eyes and applaud with her hands is Colacia (Flattery). She who seems half asleep is Lethe (Forgetfulness). She who leans upon her elbows and folds her hands is Misoponia (Sloth). She who is crowned with roses and anointed with perfume is Hedonia (Sensuality). She whose eyes wander without seeing is Anoia (Stupidity). She whose abundant flesh has the hue of flowers is Tryphe (Indolence). And here among these young women are two gods: the god of Good Cheer and the god of Deep Sleep." The absolute privilege of Folly is to reign over whatever is bad in man.  [...] Louise Labe merely follows Erasmus when she has Mercury implore the gods: "Do not let that beautiful Lady [recalling Erasmus' personification of Folly as a woman] perish who has given you so much pleasure."
But this new royalty has little in common with the dark reign of which we were just speaking and which communicated with the great tragic powers of this world.
True, madness attracts, but it does not fascinate. It rules all that is easy, joyous, frivolous in the world. It is madness, folly, which makes men "sport and rejoice,"... . All within it is brilliant surface: no enigma is concealed.
No doubt, madness has something to do with the strange paths of knowledge. The first canto of Brant's poem is devoted to books and scholars; and in the engraving which illustrates this passage in the Latin edition of 1497, we see enthroned upon his bristling cathedra of books the Magister who wears behind his doctoral cap a fool's cap sewn with bells. Erasmus, in his dance of fools, reserves a large place for scholars: after the Grammarians, the Poets, Rhetoricians, and Writers, come the Jurists; after them, the "Philosophers respectable in beard and mantle"; finally the numberless troop of the Theologians. But if knowledge is so important in madness, it is not because the latter can control the secrets of knowledge; on the contrary, madness is the punishment of a disorderly and useless science. If madness is the truth of knowledge, it is because knowledge is absurd, and instead of addressing itself to the great book of experience, loses its way in the dust of books and in idle debate; learning becomes madness through the very excess of false learning.
O ye learned men, who bear great names,
Look back at the ancient fathers, learned in the law.
They did not weigh dogmas in shining white books,
But fed their thirsty hearts with natural skill. (Sebastian Brant, Stultifera Navis, Latin Translation)
 According to the theme long familiar to popular satire, madness appears here as the comic punishment of knowledge and its ignorant presumption.
In a general way, then, madness is not linked to the world and its subterranean forms, but rather to man, to his weaknesses, dreams, and illusions. Whatever obscure cosmic manifestation there was in madness as seen by Bosch is wiped out in Erasmus; madness no longer lies in wait for mankind at the four comers of the earth; it insinuates itself within man, or rather it is a subtle rapport that man maintains with himself. The mythological personification of madness in Erasmus is only a literary device. In fact, only "follies" exist—human forms of madness: "I count as many images as there are men"; one need only glance at states, even the wisest and best governed: "So many forms of madness abound there, and each day sees so many new ones born, that a thousand Democrituses would not suffice to mock them." There is no madness but that which is in every man, since it is man who constitutes madness in the attachment he bears for himself and by the illusions he entertains.
Philautia is the first figure Folly leads out in her dance, but that is because they are linked by a privileged relation: self-attachment is the first sign of madness, but it is because man is attached to himself that he accepts error as truth, lies as reality, violence and ugliness as beauty and justice. "This man, uglier than a monkey, imagines himself handsome as Nereus; that one thinks he is Euclid because he has traced three lines with a compass; that other one thinks he can sing like Hermogenes, whereas he is the ass before the lyre, and his voice sounds as false as that of the rooster pecking his hen." In this delusive attachment to himself, man generates his madness like a mirage. The symbol of madness will henceforth be that mirror which, without reflecting anything real, will secretly offer the man who observes himself in it the dream of his own presumption. Madness deals not so much with truth and the world, as with man and whatever truth about himself he is able to perceive.

In the domain of literary and philosophic expression, the experience of madness in the fifteenth century generally takes the form of moral satire. Nothing suggests those great threats of invasion that haunted the imagination of the painters. On the contrary, great pains are taken to ward it off; one does not speak of such things. Erasmus turns our gaze from that insanity "which the Furies let slip from hell, each time they release their serpents"; it is not these insane forms that he has chosen to praise, but the "sweet illusion" that frees the soul from "its painful cares and returns it to the various forms of sensuality." This calm world is easily mastered; it readily yields its naive mysteries to the eyes of the wise man, and the latter, by laughter, always keeps his distance. Whereas Bosch, Brueghel, and Durer were terribly earth-bound spectators, implicated in that madness they saw surging around them, Erasmus observes it from far enough away to be out of danger; he observes it from the heights of his Olympus, and if he sings its praises, it is because he can laugh at it with the inextinguishable laughter of the Gods. For the madness of men is a divine spectacle: "In fact, could one make observations from the Moon, as did Menippus, considering the numberless agitations of the Earth, one would think one saw a swarm of flies or gnats fighting among themselves, struggling and laying traps, stealing from one another, playing, gambling, falling, and dying, and one would not believe the troubles, the tragedies that were produced by such a minute animalcule destined to perish so shortly." Madness is no longer the familiar foreignness of the world; it is merely a commonplace spectacle for the foreign spectator; no longer a figure of the cosmos, but a characteristic of the aevum.

For his contemporaries and for the generations that followed, Bosch was above all a moralist, and his work was a series of moral lessons. His figures were born of this world, but they demonstrated the monstrous contents of the human heart. 'The difference between the paintings of this man and those of others is that others usually portray man as he appears from the outside: Bosch alone dares paint them as they are within,' said Joseph de Siguenca. And it was that unsettling irony, that desire of wisdom to denounce all folly, that the same early seventeenth-century commentator saw in almost all of Bosch's paintings, in the clear symbolism of the burning torch (the never-sleeping vigil of contemplative thought) and the owl, whose strange, fixed stare 'keeps watch in the calm and the silence of the night, consuming oil, not wine.'

The paths taken by the figure of the cosmic vision and the incisive movement that is moral reflection, between the tragic and the critical elements, now constantly diverge, creating a gap in the fabric of the experience of madness that will never be repaired. On the one side is the ship of fools, where mad faces slowly slip away into the night of the world, in landscapes that speak of strange alchemies of knowledge, of the dark menace of bestiality, and the end of time. On the other is the ship of fools that is merely there for the instruction of the wise, an exemplary, didactic odyssey whose purpose is to highlight faults in the human character.

For ['Bosch, Brueghel, Thierry Bouts and Durer'] madness unleashes its fury in the space of pure vision.  Fantasies and threats, the fleeting fragments of dreams and the secret destiny of the world, where madness has a primitive, prophetic force, revealing that the dream-like is real and that a thin surface of illusion opens onto bottomless depths, and that the glittering surface of images opens the way to worrying figures that shine forever in the darkness. The inverse relation, no less painful, is that the reality of the world will one day be absorbed into the fantastic Image, at that delirious moment between being and nothingness which is pure destruction. When at last the world will be no more, but night and silence have not yet closed over, and all will flame up in a blinding flash, in the extremity of disorder that will precede the ordered monotony of the end of all things. The truth of the world resides in that last fleeting image. This weave of experience and secrecy, of immediate images and hidden enigmas, is unfurled in fifteenth-century painting as the tragic madness of the world.
By contrast, in Brant, Erasmus and the whole humanist tradition, madness is confined to the universe of discourse. [...] For... [the man of wisdom], it becomes a mere object, and in the worst possible manner, as it often winds up an object of ridicule: they tamed it by the act of praising it.

This conflict between critical consciousness and tragic experience underlies all that was felt and formulated on the theme of madness at the beginning of the Renaissance. But it was short-live, and a century later, this grandiose structure, which at the beginning of the sixteenth century was so evident and clear-cut, had almost entirely disappeared. [...] In short, the critical consciousness of madness was increasingly brought out into the light, while its more tragic components retreated ever further into the shadows, soon to almost vanish entirely. Only much later can a trace of the tragic element be again discerned, and a few pages in Sade and the work of Goya bear witness to the fact that this disappearance was merely an eclipse; the dark, tragic experience lived on in dreams and in the dark night of thoughts, and what happened in the sixteenth century was not a radical destruction but a mere occultation. The cosmic, tragic experience was hidden by the exclusive privileges of a critical consciousness.  [...] Behind the critical consciousness of madness in all its philosophical, scientific, moral and medicinal guises lurks a second, tragic consciousness of madness, which has never really gone away.

It is that tragic consciousness that is visible in the last words of Nietzsche and the last visions of Van Gogh. It is that same element that Freud began to perceive at the furthest point of his journey, the great wound that he tried to symbolise in the mythological struggle between the libido and the death instinct. And it is that same consciousness that finds expression in the work of Antonin Artaud.

It is only by examining such extreme discoveries that we can finally come to understand that the experience of madness common since the sixteenth century owes its particular face, and the origin of its meaning, to that absence, to that dark night and all that fills it. The linearity that led rationalist thought to consider madness as a form of mental illness must be reinterpreted in a vertical dimension. Only then does it become apparent that each of its incarnations is a more complete, but more perilous masking of tragic experience - an experience that it nonetheless failed to obliterate. When constraints were at their most oppressive, an explosion was necessary, and that is what we have seen since Nietzsche.

How did it end up being the case that madness was appropriated by reason, so much so that at the dawn of the classical age all the tragic images previously associated with madness suddenly passed into shadow? How ended the movement that caused Artaud to write: 'the Renaissance of the sixteenth century made a clean break with a reality that had laws both natural and superhuman, and the Renaissance humanism that resulted was not an expansion but a restriction for mankind'?

A brief resume of this evolution is perhaps in order, for a clear understanding of what the classical age did to madness.
1       Madness becomes a form related to reason, or more precisely madness and reason enter into a perpetually reversible relationship which implies that all madness has its own reason by which it is judged and mastered, and all reason has its madness in which it finds its own derisory truth. Each is a measure of the other, and in this movement of reciprocal reference, each rejects the other but is logically dependent upon it.
In the sixteenth century, this tight-knit dialectic gave a new lease of life to the old Christian theme of the world being madness in the eyes of God.

"...should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God... what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence." (John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion)
 'Everything has two faces,' says Sebastien Franck,
for God is resolved to oppose himself to this world, leaving appearances here and keeping the truth and essence of things to himself. For that reason things are the opposite of the way they appear in this world: an open Silenus. (Sebastien Franck, Paradoxes)
The abyss of folly into which men are plunged is such that the appearance of truth that men find there is in fact its complete opposite. But there was more: the contradiction between truth and appearances was present in appearance itself, for if appearance was coherent with itself, at least it would be an allusion to the truth, or some form of hollow echo. So it was rather within things themselves that this reversal was to be found, a reversal that henceforth was to be without a clear direction or pre-established end. The movement was not to be from an appearance towards truth, but towards another one, which negates it, and then towards all that denied or contested that negation, so that the process could never come to an end.  [...] All human affairs, he [Erasmus] says,
like the figures of Silenus described by Alcibiades, have two completely opposite faces, so that what is death at first sight, as they say, is life if you look within, and vice versa, life is death. The same applies to beauty and ugliness, riches and poverty, obscurity and fame, learning and ignorance, strength and weakness, the noble and the base born, happy and sad, good and bad fortune, friend and foe, healthy and harmful- in fact you'll find everything suddenly reversed if you open the Silenus. (Erasmus, Praise of Folly. Editors note: see also entry for the Silenus of Alcibiades in Erasmus' Adages)
All is plunged into immediate contradiction, and man is urged to embrace only his own madness: when measured against the truth of essences and God, human order is nothing but madness.
 And in this human order, the movement through which man tried to break free of his earthly bonds becomes just another form of madness. IN the sixteenth century, more so than at any other moment, Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians shone with incomparable prestige: 'I speak as a fool'. The renunciation of the world becomes an act of folly, like the total abandonment of the self to the obscure will of God, a mad quest that seemingly has no end, as the mystics had long acknowledged. [...] 'When man abandons the realm of the senses, his soul falls prey to a kind of dementia' [Nicholas of Cusa]. ... the weak reason of man, which is but folly, [is lost] in the abysmal madness of the wisdom of God:

It is unutterable in any language, unintelligible to every intellect, and immeasurable by every measure. [...] This is because that Wisdom by which, in which and from which all things exist is unthinkable in any thought. (Nicholas of Cusa, The Lyman on Wisdom and the Mind)
 So closed a great circle. Compared to Wisdom, the reason of man is nothing but folly: compared to the shallow wisdom of men, the Reason of God is caught up in the essential movement of Madness. On the great scale of things, all things are Madness; on the small scale of things, the whole itself is madness. Which means that if madness can only exist in reference to some form of reason, the whole truth of reason is to allow a form of unreason to appear and to oppose it, only to disappear in turn in a madness that engulfs all.


Such is the worst madness of man: the inability to recognise the misery of his confinement, the weakness that prevents him from ascending to the true and the good, and not knowing which part of madness is his own. His turning his back on unreason is a sure sign of his condition, in that it prevents him from ever using his reason in a reasonable manner. For if reason does exist, it lies precisely in the acceptance of the unbroken circle joining wisdom and folly, in the clear consciousness of their reciprocity and the impossibility of dividing them. True reason is not free of the contamination of madness, but on the contrary, it borrows some of the trails first carved out by madness.
Be present, then, you daughters of Jove, for a bit, while I show that no one can reach the heights of wisdom, and the very 'inner sanctum', as they themselves say, 'of happiness', except with the guidance of Folly. (Eramsus, Praise of Folly)
But such a path, even when it fails to reach any final wisdom, and when the promised citadel reveals itself to be nothing more than a mirage or a new incarnation of folly, remains the path to wisdom when those who follow it are well aware that it leads to madness. The vain spectacle, the frivolous sounds and the maelstrom of noise and colour that make up the world is only ever the world of madness, and that must be accepted.

Here, in the midst of that colourful, noisy immediacy, in that easy acceptance which is also an imperceptible refusal, the essence of wisdom is to be found more surely than in any lengthy search for the hidden truth. Subtly, through the welcome it reserves for it, wisdom invests madness, besieges it, becomes conscious of it and is able to situate it.
Where else could it be found, other than within reason itself, as one of its forms, and perhaps even one of its resources? [...] 'Wisdom and folly are surprisingly close. It's but a half turn from the one to the other. That much can be discerned from the actions of men who have lost their wits.' [     ] [...] Visiting Tasso in his delirium, Montaigne felt... disappointment even more than pity, but the most powerful emotion he experienced was admiration. 'Is there anyone who does not know how imperceptible are the divisions separating madness from supreme and extraordinary virtue?' Montaigne experiences a paradoxical admiration, for in the depths of that madness, reason finds the strangest resources. For if Tasso, 'fashioned in the pure poetry of the atmosphere of antiquity, who showed more judgement and genius than any other Italian for many a long year', now finds himself 'in so wretched a state, surviving himself', it was also because
his agile and lively mind has overthrown him; the light has made him blind; his reason's grasp was so precise and so intense that it has left him quite irrational; his quest for knowledge, eager and exacting, has led to his becoming like a dumb beast... . (Montaigne, Essays)
If madness comes to sanction the efforts of reason, it is because madness was already part of those efforts: the liveliness of images, the violence of passion, the great retreating of the spirit into itself are all part of madness, but are also the most powerful, and therefore the most dangerous, tools that reason can use. There is no reason so strong that it does not put itself at risk in venturing into madness to carry out its task to the full: 'there is no great spirit who is not tempered by a touch of madness... many wise men and countless brave poets have ventured into madness, and some have become lost there.' Madness is a hard but essential moment in the labour of reason. Through it, and through its apparent victories, reason makes itself manifest and triumphs. Madness, for reason, was nothing more than a secret life and a source of strength.
Little by little, madness finds itself disarmed... : invested by reason, it is as though it is welcomed [by it] and planted within it. Such was the ambiguous role of sceptical thought, or rather of a form of reason that was vividly conscious of the forms that limited it and the forces that contradicted it: it discovered madness as one of its own figures - one way of warding off anything that may have formed an exterior power, irreducible hostility or a sign of transcendence; while by the same token placing madness at the heart of its workings and indicating it to be an essential moment in its own nature. [...] 'Men are so necessarily mad, that not being mad would be being mad through another trick that madness played.' [Pascal] That thought is the distillation of the long process of reflection that began with Erasmus: the discovery of a form of madness immanent within reason; and from there a process of doubling - on the one hand a 'mad madness' that turns its back on the madness that properly belongs to reason, and which through that rejection, redoubles its power, and through that redoubling falls into the simplest, most hermetic and most immediate forms of madness; and on the other hand a 'wise madness' which welcomes the madness of reason, listens to it, recognises its right of abode and allows itself to be penetrated by all its vivid power, thereby protecting itself from madness in a manner far more effective than any obstinate refusal, which is condemned to failure in advance.
Now the truth of madness is at one with the victory of reason and its definitive mastery, for the truth of madness is to be interior to reason, to be one of its figures, a strength and a momentary need to ascertain itself.

Perhaps that provides one explanation for its multiple presence in the literature of the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century, an art which, in its effort to master this reason in search of itself, recognizes the presence of madness, its own madness, circumscribes it, invests itself in it and finally triumphs over it. These are the games of a Baroque age.
But in art as in thought, a whole process is accomplished which will lead to the confirmation of the tragic experience of madness inside a critical consciousness. Let us ignore this phenomenon for the moment and consider... those figures [of the tragic experience of madness] to be found in Don Quixote as well as in Scudery's novels, in King Lear as well as in the theatre of Jean de Rotrou or Tristan l'Hermite.
Let us begin with the most important, and the most durable— since the eighteenth century will still recognize its only just erased forms: madness by romantic identification. Its features have been fixed once and for all by Cervantes. But the theme is tirelessly repeated: direct adaptations.... , reinterpretations of a particular episode... , or, in a more indirect fashion, satire on novels of fantasy... . The chimeras are transmitted from author to reader, but what was fantasy on one side becomes hallucination on the other; the writer's stratagem is quite naively accepted as an image of reality. In appearance, this is nothing but the simple-minded critique of novels of fantasy, but just under the surface lies an enormous anxiety concerning the relationships, in a work of art, between the real and the imaginary, and perhaps also concerning the confused communication between fantastic invention and the fascinations of delirium. "We owe the invention of the arts to deranged imaginations; the Caprice of Painters, Poets, and Musicians is only a name moderated in civility to express their Madness." (Cervantes, Don Quixoti, Part  II, Chap. 1)

Immediately following this first form: the madness of vain presumption. But it is not with a literary model that the madman identifies; it is with himself, and by means of a delusive attachment that enables him to grant himself all the qualities, all the virtues or powers he lacks. He inherits the old Philautia of Erasmus. Poor, he is rich; ugly, he admires himself; with chains still on his feet, he takes himself for God. [...] Measureless madness, which has as many faces as the world has characters, ambitions, and necessary illusions. Even in its extremities, this is the least extreme of madnesses; it is, in the heart of every man, the imaginary relation he maintains with himself. It engenders the commonest of his faults. To denounce it is the first and last element of all moral criticism.
To the moral world, also, belongs the madness of just punishment, which chastises, along with the disorders of the mind, those of the heart. [...] The justification of this madness is that it is truthful. Truthful since the sufferer already experiences, in the vain whirlwind of his hallucinations, what will for all eternity be the pain of his punishment: Eraste, in Corneille's Melite, sees himself already pursued by the Eumenides and condemned by Minos. Truthful, too, because the crime hidden from all eyes dawns like day in the night of this strange punishment; madness, in its wild, untamable words, proclaims its own meaning; in its chimeras, it utters its secret truth; its cries speak for its conscience. Thus Lady Macbeth's delirium reveals to those who "have known what they should not" words long uttered only to "dead pillows."
Then the last type of madness: that of desperate passion. Love disappointed in its excess, and especially love deceived by the fatality of death, has no other recourse but madness. As long as there was an object, mad love was more love than madness; left to itself, it pursues itself in the void of delirium. Punishment of a passion too abjectly abandoned to its violence? No doubt; but this punishment is also a relief; it spreads, over the irreparable absence, the mercy of imaginary presences; it recovers, in the paradox of innocent joy or in the heroism of senseless pursuits, the vanished form. If it leads to death, it is a death in which the lovers will never be separated again. This is Ophelia's last song, this is the delirium of Ariste in La Folie du sage. But above all, this is the bitter and sweet madness of King Lear.
In Shakespeare, madness is allied to death and murder; in Cervantes, images are controlled by the presumption and the compensations of the imaginary. These are supreme models whose imitators deflect and disarm them. Doubtless, both testify more to a tragic experience of madness appearing in the fifteenth century, than to a critical and moral experience of Unreason developing in their own epoch. Outside of time, they establish a link with a meaning about to be lost, and whose continuity will no longer survive except in darkness. But it is by comparing their work, and what it maintains, with the meanings that develop among their contemporaries or imitators, that we may decipher what is happening, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, in the literary experience of madness.
In Shakespeare or Cervantes, madness still occupies an extreme place, in that it is beyond appeal. Nothing ever restores it either to truth or to reason. It leads only to laceration and thence to death.
Madness, in its vain words, is not vanity; the void that fills it is a "disease beyond my practice," as the doctor says about Lady Macbeth; it is already the plenitude of death; a madness that has no need of a physician, but only of divine mercy. The sweet joy Ophelia finally regains reconciles her with no happiness; her mad song is as close to the essential as the "cry of women" that announces through the corridors of Macbeth's castle that "the Queen is dead." Certainly Don Quixote's death occurs in a peaceful landscape, which at the last moment has rejoined reason and truth. Suddenly the Knight's madness has grown conscious of itself, and in his own eyes trickles out in nonsense. But is this sudden wisdom of his folly anything but "a new madness that had just come into his head"? The equivocation is endlessly reversible and cannot be resolved, ultimately, except by death itself. Madness dissipated can be only the same thing as the imminence of the end; "and even one of the signs by which they realized that the sick man was dying, was that he had returned so easily from madness to reason." But death itself does not bring peace; madness will still triumph —a truth mockingly eternal, beyond the end of a life which yet had been delivered from madness by this very end. Ironically, Don Quixote's insane life pursues and immortalizes him only by his insanity; madness is still the imperishable life of death... . [alt trans. The senselessness of his life pursues him, and ironically he is immortalized only by his madness, which becomes his imperishable life in death... .]

But very soon, madness leaves these ultimate regions where Cervantes and Shakespeare had situated it; and in the literature of the early seventeenth century it occupies, by preference, a median place; it thus constitutes the knot more than the denouement, the peripity rather than the final release. Displaced in the economy of narrative and dramatic structures, it authorizes the manifestation of truth and the return to reason.
Henceforth it is no longer considered in its tragic reality, as the absolute tear in the fabric of this world that opens on to the other, but simply in the irony of the illusion it brings. [....] Madness is deprived of its dramatic seriousness... . Its dramatic function exists only insofar as we are concerned with a false drama, a chimerical form where faults are merely supposed, murders are illusory and disappearances lead inevitably to reunions.
Yes despite this absence of seriousness it is still essential- even more essential than before, for if it brings illusion to its climax, it is from this point that illusion is undone. In the madness to which the error of their ways confines them, the character involuntarily begins to unravel the web. Accusing himself, he speaks the truth in spite of himself. In Melite, for example, all the stratagems the hero has used to deceive others are turned against himself, and he becomes their first victim, believing that he is guilty of the deaths of his rival and his mistress. But in his delirium, he blames himself for having invented a whole series of love letters; the truth comes to light, in and through madness, which, provoked by the illusion of a denouement, actually resolves the real imbroglio of which it is both cause and effect. [...] It conceals beneath error the secret enterprise of truth. It is this function of madness, both ambiguous and central, that the author of L'Ospital des fous employs when he portrays a pair of lovers who, to escape their pursuers, pretend to be mad and hide among madmen; in a fit of simulated dementia, the girl, who is dressed as a boy, pretends to believe she is a girl— which she really is—  thus uttering, by the reciprocal neturalization in which these two ruses cancel each other out, the truth which in the end will triumph.
Madness is the purest, most total form of qui pro quo; it takes the false for the true, death for life.   [...] It has merely to carry illusion to the point of truth. Thus it is, at the very heart of the structure, in its mechanical centre, both a feigned conclusion, pregnant with a secret 'starting over,' and the first step toward what will turn out to be the reconciliation with reason and truth. [...] Madness is the great trompe-l'oeil in the tragicomic structures of preclassical literature.
This was understood by Georges de Scudery, as he shows in the Comedie des comediens, where by turning the theatre into a theatre he situates his play, from the start, inside the illusion of madness. One group of actors takes the part of spectators, another that of actors. The former must pretend to take the decor for reality, the play for life, while in reality these actors are performing in a real decor; on the other hand, the latter must pretend to play the part of actors, while in fact, quite simply, they are actors acting. A double impersonation in which each element is doubled, thus forming that renewed exchange of the real and the illusory which is itself the dramatic meaning of madness. 'I don not know,' Mondory says in the prologue to Scudery's play, 'what extravagance has today come over my companions, but it is so great that I am forced to believe that some spell has robbed them of their reason, and the worst of it is that they are trying to make me lose mine, and you yours as well. They wish to persuade me that I am not on a stage, that this is the city of Lyons, that over there is an inn, and there an innyard where actors who are not ourselves, yet who are, are performing a Pastoral.' In this extravaganza, the theatre develops its truth, which is illusion. Which is, in the strict sense, madness

The classical experience of madness is born. The great threat that dawned on the horizon of the fifteenth century subsides, the disturbing powers that inhabit Bosch's painting have lost their violence. Forms remain, now transparent and docile, forming a cortege, the inevitable procession of reason. Madness has ceased to be—at the limits of the world, of man and death—an eschatological figure; the darkness has dispersed on which the eyes of madness were fixed and out of which the forms of the impossible were born. Oblivion falls upon the world navigated by the free slaves of the Ship of Fools. Madness will no longer proceed from a point within the world to a point beyond, on its strange voyage; it will never again be that fugitive and absolute limit. Behold it moored now, made fast among things and men. Retained and maintained. No longer a ship but a hospital.
Scarcely a century after the career of the mad ships, we note the appearance of the theme of the "Hospital of Madmen," the "Madhouse." Here every empty head, fixed and classified according to the true reason of men, utters contradiction and irony, the double language of Wisdom:
. . . the Hospital of incurable Madmen, where are recited from end to end all the follies and fevers of the mind, by men as well as women, a task no less useful than enjoyable, and necessary for the acquisition of true wisdom.

 Here each form of madness finds its proper place, its distinguishing mark, and its tutelary divinity: frenzied and ranting madness, symbolized by a fool astride a chair, straggles beneath Minerva's gaze; the somber melancholies that roam the countryside, solitary and avid wolves, have as their god Jupiter, patron of animal metamorphoses; then come the "mad drunkards," the "madmen deprived of memory and understanding," the "madmen benumbed and half-dead," the "madmen of giddy and empty heads"... . All this world of disorder, in perfect order, pronounces, each in his turn, the Praise of Reason. Already, in this "Hospital," confinement has succeeded embarkation.
Tamed, madness preserves all the appearances of its reign. It now takes part in the measures of reason and in the labor of truth. It plays on the surface of things and in the glitter of daylight, over all the workings of appearances, over the ambiguity of reality and illusion, over all that indeterminate web, ever rewoven and broken, which both unites and separates truth and appearance. It hides and manifests, it utters truth and falsehood, it is light and shadow. It shimmers, a central and indulgent figure, already precarious in this baroque age.

Madness traces a very familiar silhouette in the social landscape. A new and lively pleasure is taken in the old confraternities of madmen, in their festivals, their gatherings, their speeches. Men argue passionately for or against Nicolas Joubert, better known by the name of Angoulevent, who declares himself Prince of Fools, a title disputed by Valenti le Comte and Jacques Resneau: there follow pamphlets, a trial, arguments; his lawyer declares and certifies him to be "an empty head, a gutted gourd, lacking in common sense; a cane, a broken brain, that has neither spring nor whole wheel in his head."

This world of the early seventeenth century is strangely hospitable, in all senses, to madness. Madness is here, at the heart of things and of men, an ironic sign that misplaces the guideposts between the real and the chimerical, barely retaining the memory of the great tragic threats—a life more disturbed than disturbing, an absurd agitation in society, the mobility of reason.
But new requirements are being generated:

A hundred and a hundred times have I taken up my lantern,
Seeking, at high noon . . , (Regnier, Satire XIV)





Goya's The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters.



  For a selection from the next chapter (The Great Confinement) see here