In the final discussion on the use of animalization in the literary classics will be on “Madness and Civilization” written by Michael Foucault. The piece is another poignant example, along with “Diary of a Madmen” and “The Metamorphosis,” of how writers have used the historical comparison of animalization in regard to mentally troubled individuals. I will compare and contrast how Foucault uses the concept of animalization in his writing compared to the writer of the other two stories. Foucault’s story differs greatly from the previous authors, as it takes the reader on a type of journey through the changes in attitudes regarding the issues of mental illness through various periods throughout out time. One can gain insight into the evolution of how civilization and society has dealt with the mentally unstable individuals in society. The previous authors, Kafka and Gogol used the symbol of animalization as they discussed the life of the psychologically ill characters Poprishchin and Gregor.
Although each story’s addresses the topic of insanity, the delivery and role of the concept of madness in society in correlation with the use of animals is done with significant differences. Foucault’s story almost reads as a historical fictional book of theories surrounding the societal perceptions of the ‘mad’ individuals. Whereas, Kafka transforms the main character into an actual insect to represent the depraved mental condition of Gregor, Gogol delivers the topic of animalization of his character Poprishchin mental instability occurring through this delusional ability to speak with dogs. Each piece is a well written depiction of the historical relationship that civilizations have managed to deal with the frenetic members of society.
In “Madness and Civilization” Foucault shows the correlation of animals in the way experts used to think that the individuals who were losing their minds had been possessed by the spirit of an animal. It is evident the way the madness was often associated with the unruly and unpredictability of the animal kingdom that required constraint in order to limit the animals from harming others. That is the opinion that I began to form as I read Foucault’s various transformation of how people have associated with crazy individuals. According to Foucault’s first inference of human madness to animal like resemblance, “The neck of the Gutemensche 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 beaten animal and thing, closer to the charms of an image than to the rigor of a meaning” (Foucault, pg.19). This description relating insanity to a birdlike creature was used by Foucault as he describes the early Renaissance. Unlike Kafka and Gogol, numerous references to animalization were made by Foucault, rather than a character based reference to one particular connection of madness with animal association.
In “Madness and Civilization” the importance of delivering the need for disassociating the mentally ill person from the functional members of society appears to be the fundamental message that Foucault is providing the reader. The lack of connection the civilization has towards mental illness as an actual medical disease has evidently been ignored in previous periods of history, which each author of the three stories continues to confirm in the delivery of how they use animalization to confirm the extent of insanity in the characters or story is referred to in the essay.
The biggest distinction in the way that Foucault uses the human madness in through various symbolic associations that transform based on the context of beliefs in whatever period of history the author is discussing. His delivery of the concept of psychosis is multi-faceted and beyond the limits of just animalization unlike Kafka and Gogol’s depictions. Foucault other difference in his discussion of insanity is also discussed through other literary works and philosophies popular in the different centuries that are discussed, such as the stories common to mythological creatures. A fantastic example of this is done by Foucault’s reference to Erasmus’ interpretation, “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 minute animal-cule destined to perish so shortly” (p.28). Clearly the attitude that society has seen the weak-minded men and women throughout time has been with disregard for the actual suffering that is been realized in modern times through the advances in medicine in the field of psychology.
As the discussion of madness in humans’ continues, the next phase that is worth mentioning is the Shakespearean era where “desperate passion” is to be blamed on the mentally deranged individuals. Hence, the numerous characters in Shakespeare’s writing were seen to have been consumed by passions that drove them to insanity. Here Foucault states, “Love disappointed in its excess, and especially love deceived by the fatality of death, has no other recourse but madness” (p.30). The power of passionate love was also seen to be a mechanism to drive a man mad, which is a valid concept that could still be assumed in some instances, such as when crimes of passion occur. Based on “Madness and Civilization” the power that madness has over life is one that cannot even be escaped in death (Foucault). “Ironically, Don Quixote’s insane life pursues and immortalizes him only by his insanity; madness is still the imperishable life of death” (p. 32). As I consider the three author’s use of the effect of insanity on human lives, it is easy to assume that the fear of the unknown capabilities of the human mind were so powerful that without some explanation was needed prior to the scientific logic that is now known in the present about the brain and its chemistry.
Regardless of the distinct styles of storytelling that Kafka, Gogol, and Foucault provide in revealing the mysterious nature of insanity, the connectivity of animalization is shared significantly even in the last piece, “Madness and Civilization.” One could easily understand how or why Kafka and Gogol refer to non-human species in their stories of these madmen as he or she reads Foucault’s writing on the insane mind. Foucault’s explanation of numerous famous writers, artists, and philosophers shows that the reference of madness to animals has been a common manner to express the behaviors seen by the psychotic individuals.
The further into Madness and Civilization, Foucault takes the reader through time. “For classicism, madness in its ultimate form is man in his immediate relation to his animality, without other reference, without any recourse” (p.74). This particular excerpt from Madness and Civilization are important to consider when thinking back to the way that Kafka and Gogol use animal and insect in their storytelling. Kafka makes Gregor into an insect that is just a pestering nuisance to his surroundings once he is incapable of providing income to his family. This is best described through transforming Gregor into a ‘thing’ which would properly depict the characteristics of the type of individual Gregor becomes as he loses his mind. Gogol use of dogs as Poprishchin method of madness seems to show the symbolism of the lesser position that Poprishchin has in his life and throughout the storyline in Diary of a Madman. Reading Madness and Civilization begins to help bring the use of animals and non-human species to the disease of mental illness into a context that begins to make sense to the reader. The depth of each literary piece is enhanced from exploring each of the three stories by the great writer Kafka, Gogol, and Foucault.
As I conclude the essay on the comparison of Diary of a Madmen, The Metamorphosis, and Madness and Civilization it is easy to see that literature has been used not only to explore the unknown fears of the unstable minds of men and women throughout history, but that the lack scientific proof was quite difficult for those who came before us. In the current 21st century reality, the comparison of a mentally ill person to that of an animal or any other surreal or abstract identity would be an insulting and ruthless way to approach the very real psychological issues associated with the diseases of the mind. Each author does justice to the conversation by having distinguished it as a condition, regardless of how it was told. From a literary perspective, the comparison to animals is not observed as an insult, but when looking at Foucault’s delivery of the way the topic of mental illness has been dealt, one can see that it has been a long and hard struggle for mankind to make strides towards medical healing. Despite the challenges that have been faced by humanity, one must also acknowledge the diseases of the mind to have delivered the most incredibly creative works of art in the form of pictures, stories, music, and much more. As Foucault says, “There is nothing that the madness of men invents which is not either nature made manifest or nature restored” (p. 283).
Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New
York: Vintage, 1988. Print.