Ethan and Gemma

Ethan and Gemma

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mad as a Victorian

I have spent about 12 hours a day working on term papers for the past 5 days or so, and I think I'm slowly going mad. Of course that is probably due in part to the paper I have been working on for the past two days, which is about James Joyce's use of the figure of the colonial madwoman in Ulysses. (I clearly was mad before I started writing, as evidenced by my insane choice of paper topic.)

So as part of writing this paper, I've been reading treatises on madness, in particular, on "moral madness". . . written by Victorians. And basically, the Victorians were all just nuts. And if I have to read too many more of these essays, I will be nuts too.

But my favorite by far is the essay called "The Loaded Colon" by a guy named Daniel Noble, written in 1853, in which he discusses "derangement of the colon" and "the prejudicial effects of a loaded colon upon the temper and moral disposition." According to Daniel Noble, "premonitory symptoms of insanity are sometimes dissipated by procuring a free and vigorous action of the large intestines." And if someone gets snarky with you? Well, it might just be because their colon is backed up! Noble writes that "we should frequently find the misfortunes of one man caused by the intestines of another, whom the former endeavoured to inspire with sympathy in his fate at a moment when the frame of mind of the latter was affected by impeded secretion. An hour later, and his fortune would have been made."

And then it continues on to describe in detail (which I will spare you) the precise methods of "derangement" that might lead to insanity.

So the next time someone starts acting crazy on you, just give them a laxative and pretty soon it'll be all good.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Carissa - this comment is very late. But I was constipated the other day and kept thinking about this post. My temper and moral disposition were suffering badly indeed!