In the early 1820s, in the aftermath of the 1789 Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, the French painter Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) made a remarkable series of portraits of patients in an asylum or clinic. They are unprecedented, in that they show people designated as insane as ordinary individuals. They point to a new, essentially democratic conception of the human being - sane or mad - as a person available for relationship and communication: a "therapeutic subject". The paintings register a critical moment in the history of subjectivity; they also connect us to some of the living roots of psychoanalysis. Made during a period of massive social, cultural and economic transformation, they challenge us profoundly, in our own medicalised and conflictual era, to find responses in ourselves to the face and the embodied mysteries of the other person - and to confront the stranger in our midst. In this illustrated seminar, I shall present some of the ideas explored in my book, in a converation with Mary Pat Campbell. We shall then invite participants to an open discussion, with reproductions of these extraordinary portraits in front of us.
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