Nightmare Factories: The Asylum in the American Imagination

Johns Hopkins. Sept. 2019. 344p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781421432670. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9781421432687. HIST
Rondinone (history, Southern Connecticut State Univ.) unravels the history of the word asylum—and the stigma that goes along with it—in both literature and popular culture. Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, understandably, opens the this history and looms large throughout; the author makes insightful distinctions between both book and movie. He combines all kinds of materials, from cartoons and famous movies, such as Snake Pit and Psycho, to Edgar Allen Poe short stories. Rondinone also includes analysis of the role of horror movies in this history. Notable is the way in which the smoothly written narrative integrates these cultural artifacts into social and medical history. Furthermore, the author demonstrates how the portrayal of asylums, to a large extent, influences the way society judges people with mental illness.
VERDICT Will appeal to a broad range of readers, from academics interested in the history of medicine and popular culture, to general readers seeking social history rooted in an imaginative variety of sources.

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