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Agnes's Jacket A Psychologist's Search for the Meanings of Madness by Gail A. Hornstein

Agnes's Jacket A Psychologist's Search for the Meanings of Madness


Agnes's Jacket A Psychologist's Search for the Meanings of Madness by Gail A. Hornstein

In a Victorian-era German asylum, seamstress Agnes Richter painstakingly stitched a mysterious autobiographical text into every inch of the jacket she created from her institutional uniform. Despite every attempt to silence them, hundreds of other patients have managed to get their stories out, at least in disguised form, and so it continues today. A vast gulf exists between the way medicine explains psychiatric illness and the experiences of those who suffer. Hornstein's brilliant work helps us to bridge that gulf, guiding us through the inner lives of those diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar illness, depression, and paranoia and emerging with nothing less than a new model for understanding so-called 'mental illness', one another and ourselves. One which asks not 'what's wrong with you' but 'what happened to you and how did you manage to survive?'


Reading Agnes's Jacket changed the course of my life. In this book Gail Hornstein undertakes a remarkable investigation into the experiences of people who - like me - have found themselves caught up in the 'mad world
of mental illness. In this compelling account of a personal quest spanning centuries and continents, seeking to better comprehend what it is to go mad, Gail Hornstein connects us to a whole new world of hitherto hidden networks, radical voices and marvellous stories of survival, recovery and beyond. Mental illness can be a profoundly isolating experience. Since discovering Agnes

's Jacket I know that I am part of a growing global community of people - either 'experts by experience or experts by profession' - who push forward towards a more humane and hopeful understanding of the meanings of madness. Bobby Baker, author of 'Diary Drawings', Mind Book of the Year 2011 An amazing psychological adventure story. Hornstein, an academic psychologist with the skills of a first-rate journalist, enters the world of the truly 'mad'
and comes out with profound lessons about her profession and herself. Barbara Ehrenreich It would be difficult to over

-praise this book. Beautifully written, combining intellectual rigour with the tension of a detective story, it uses historical and modern material to document the struggles and opposition faced by those called mad who simply wish to tell their own stories. A superb addition to the increasing number of critiques of the medicalisation of distress. Mary Boyle Compelling and beautifully done. Susie Orbach An insightful and eloquent exploration of the subjective experiences of madness. The curiosity and wisdom of the author illuminates our understanding of the complex mysteries of the human condition. Jacqui Dillon

About the Author

Gail A. Hornstein is a professor of psychology at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, USA, and author of 'To Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the World', the widely praised biography of pioneering psychiatrist Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. She divides her time between Holyoke and London.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st January 2012


Gail A. Hornstein

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PCCS Books


335 pages


Clinical psychology
Care of the mentally ill



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