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Austen’s ability to represent psychologically plausible characters poses the question of what she would have known about the mind and its disorders. An answer requires insight into the ways the mentally afflicted were treated during the Regency and mind and madness understood by some of Austen’s literary influences (William Shakespeare, James Boswell, and Elizabeth Hamilton). Austen’s depiction of mind and madness in her novels contrasts with what she knew and wrote about medicine and medical practices for physical illnesses and injuries. The tenor of the times and the circumspect treatment of mind and madness in her novels, in turn, suggest that whatever firsthand knowledge she would have had from witnessing mental impairment in two family members was scrupulously hidden.
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This page is a summary of: Cartesian Dualism, Real and Literary Madness in the Regency, and the Mind and Madness in Austen’s Novels, November 2021, Center for Open Science, DOI: 10.31235/osf.io/zeh5n.
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