Huot, Sylvia Jean. Madness in Medieval French Literature: Identities Found and Lost. Oxford University Press, 2003.
It has become a commonplace to note that madness and sanity aike are tto a large extent in the eye of the beholder, that the behavioral patterns classified as pathological will be differrent in different soieties, and that concepts of both madness and identity are specific to the culture that produes and polices them. 2
madness is often configured as a crisis of boundaries and borderlines, as stated by R.D. Laing. "Our culture, while allowing certain marginal licence, comes down vey sharply on people who do not draw the inner/outer, real/unreal, me/not-me, private/public lines where it is thought to be healthy, right, and normal to do so. 10 Laing from Self and Others.
The views of madness developed in medieval medical writings, drawing on the traditions of antiquity, portray madness as an illness, resulting from bodily corruption and imbalance. 10
Evrart de Conty, Professor of Medicine at the Sorbonne/ a very rich lade was afflicted with such melancholy that wehever anyone offered her a drink, be it wine or water, it always seemed to her that the cup was full of spiders, of which she had such abomination and horror that she didn't dare drink, and would run away. 11
The medical conditions associated with madness involve the breakdown of boundaries, both internal - those marking divisions within the body - and external: the crucial dividing line between self and other. 11 madwoman gazes out at the world and sees reflected her innermost preoccupations. Yet this mirroring of the self is not a reassuring image of wholeness but rather its horrific inversion: what is reflected is not integrity but a multitude of vermin; not purity but defilement. 12
Arnaldus. "And from this it necessarily follows that because of this intense desire for the thin, its form is retained in a fantastically powerful manner and a memory of the thing is thereby constantly present." 13
The toxicity of the madperson's own body.
If medical tradition discusses madness in terms of bodily corruption, delusion, and autotoxicity, however, there is none the less a fundamental ambivalence surrounding madness as we look beyond medicine to philosophical , theological, and literary traditions. 15
There is another side to the perception of madness in the Middle Ages as in our own time, a troubled suspicion that madness, in its freedom from the constraints of reason and social decorum, may be more honest and genuine than sanity; that the mad are gifted with deeper insights; or that they have achieved a higher plane of experience. Despite its terrors, madness can appear strangely seductive, and has long been the object of a curious sort of cultural hesitation. 16
The identification of madness or folly with aspects of the Christian faith is as old as the New Testament itself.
But if the medieva Christian must remain vigilant against the danger of mistaking a saint for a madmen, the opposite danger is equally present, that of mitakina a charlatan or outright lunatic for a saint. 20