Chapter

<i>Mémoires d'une aliénée</i> by Hersilie Rouy: ‘Où est la folie là‐dedans?’

Susannah Wilson

in Voices from the Asylum

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199579358
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595226 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199579358.003.0003

Series: Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monographs

Mémoires d'une aliénée by Hersilie Rouy: ‘Où est la folie là‐dedans?’

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This chapter examines the case of Hersilie Rouy, incarcerated in French asylums from 1854 until 1868. Rouy's autobiographical text, Mémoires d'une aliénée (1883), recounts her experiences prior to and during psychiatric treatment. This chapter forms a close analysis of this text by first examining the memoirs as a voice in isolation, characterized by a folding in on the self and libidinal investment in the textual ‘je’, in compensation for the poverty of relationships experienced by the individual who appears to stand as their author. It then analyses the vitality—as opposed to the pathology—of Rouy's writing as a voice in dialogue, and the way in which rhetorical energy is successfully deployed in order to subvert and undermine the hegemony of the authoritative discourse of psychiatry. Finally, the way in which ‘asylum’ is presented and upheld as a pathogenic space is considered in detail. This produces the impression of the asylum as an integral part of patriarchal society which reinforced the social alienation that might drive an individual to delusion.

Keywords: Hersilie Rouy; memoir; autobiography; delusion; metaphor; pathology; isolation; dialogue; psychiatric discourse; psychosis

Chapter.  23068 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)

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