My dissertation-turned-book project, tentatively re-titled Pathways, is a historical case study of a Victorian asylum where middle-class men went to be restored to their middle-class ways. Truly, that was the stated, published, and widely publicized goal of Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane. As such, I’ve been able to investigate the medical, financial, therapeutic, and even aesthetic decisions of asylum-makers who used their social and political clout to actively fashion “wellness” into something that was damningly white, wealthy, gentlemanly/respectable, and oppressively silent when it really mattered for men’s mental health that they be able to speak.
I conclude–and I am far from alone in this–that we are still dealing with the oppressive violence of this limiting definition of wellness. This definition excludes more people than it welcomes–people of color, women, LGBTQ folx, intersex persons, people with disabilities–and constrains those it supposedly benefits, leading to isolation from community, aggressive competition, and further (almost always misdirected, scapegoated) violence. If we are any of us to survive, we have to dismantle this Victorian project and imagine compassionate, kind, collaborative, and emotionally intelligent, empathetic ways forward.
Told through the eyes of a young doctor who signed his case notes as “Dr. T” my book is rich with primary sources, patients’ voices, sympathy, and challenge.
My book also includes faeries, steampunk trains, and allegorical Otherworlds. I should probably mention that.