There is Method in His Madness: The Cultivation and Enactment of Male Normativity in British Asylums, 1880-1910
My dissertation investigates the cultivation of British normative masculinity within Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane, 1880-1910. I show how actors within the asylum - sentient, non-sentient, semiotic, material - enacted the processes that created a specific (and yet contested) version of male normativity. Medicalized and gendered conversations about proper, healthy behavior policed these processes, revealing how normatively is done or made - how it is not a trans-historical certainty. This image illustrates the balance I strike between the text and the materiality of my sources. We can still see that "syphilis is dominant" in a patient suffering from "ideas of persecution," but the scrap of paper is the star. The coloring, texture, and ink on the scrap tell me that it was once a patient letter, penned on asylum-sanctioned stationery. And comparison with other extant letters tells me that attendants included it as marker of the patient's descent into paranoia. In other words, the voice of the patient was transmuted, with the stab of a pin, into a symptom, effectively silencing the legitimacy of his concerns. In contrast, the words of the Medical Superintendent are contained in leather-bound, authoritative tomes produced by Shaw & Sons, Printers and Publishers, and fill the archive.