Excessive shyness, sadness, erratic acts and eccentricity have all become fodder for the mind doctors over the last two hundred years during which their professions have grown and grown. Their diagnoses now encroach on almost all aspects of our emotional lives and behaviour. In turn, we see our lives as suitable cases for treatment and expect the mind doctors to fix us up with pills that promise to make us “better than well.”
Lisa Appignanesi’s brilliantly researched study of the relationship between women, mental illness and the mind doctors - one of the few to look at the full range of the ‘psy’ professions - reveals why this subject is so complex and fascinating. She chose to focus on women not only because their documented cases are riveting - from the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties, Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, to name but a few. The treatment of women has also, down the years, contributed hugely to the growth of understanding in the profession.
Lisa Appignanesi is a novelist, writer and broadcaster. She is President of English PEN, the founding centre of the world association of writers. MAD, BAD and SAD: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 (Virago/Little Brown) was published in February 2008.
Previous writing includes the novel The Memory Man (Arcadia), the psychological thrillers Paris Requiem, Sanctuary, The Dead of Winter, (Bantam) as well as The Things we do for Love, A Good Women, Dreams of Innocence and Memory and Desire (Harper Collins).
Her non-fiction includes the much praised family memoir, Losing the Dead, (Chatto/Vintage). She has also written a life of Simone de Beauvoir, (Haus 2005); Cabaret ( 2004, Yale University Press) and a book on James, Proust and Musil. She is co-author of the classic study, Freud's Women with John Forrester (3rd edition, Phoenix, 2005). Her books have been translated into many languages.
She has edited a collection of writings, Free Expression is no Offence (Penguin Nov. 2005), which arose from the English PEN campaign against the government’s religious hatred legislation, which she led. The book played a significant part in the House of Common’s vote to amend the Bill and introduce a protection of Free Expression clause.
She has edited other volumes of essays and articles, including, Postmodernism; Science and Beyond (with Stephen Rose) and Dismantling the Truth (with Hilary Lawson)
Amongst her recent translations are with John Berger, Nella Bielski’s novel, The Year is ’42 (Bloomsbury), which won the 2005 Scott Moncrieff prize for translation; the memoir of an Afghani woman, My Forbidden Face (Virago) , and Ma Yan, The Diary of a Chinese Schoolgirl (Virago).
She is General Editor of the Big Idea series for Profile Books, which includes titles by Slavoj Zizek, Susie Orbach. Steven Lukes and Eva Hoffman, amongst others.
A former university lecturer and Deputy Director of London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, she co-edited The Rushdie File and initiated and edited the important Documents series. She has been Executive Producer on a number of programmes for television, including Seductions (four short plays for C4); and England's Henry Moore, and for French television `co-auteured' a film on Salman Rushdie. At the ICA, she initiated the Writers in Conversation series (both live and on video) as well as conferences, talks, and seminars across a range of disciplines. She was a founding editor of the publishing company, Writers and Readers.
As a cultural commentator, she reviews for The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, and The Independent, has written occasional columns, and broadcasts frequently. She has written and presented programmes for Radio 4 including, The Case of Sigmund Freud, and Freudian Slips as well as presented Radio 3’s Night Waves She has a doctorate in Comparative Literature. She has received a Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres. She is CHAIR of the Freud Museum London Trustees, as well as a patron of Writers in Exile.