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Sass, L.A. (1997). Madness and Modernism. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:314-316.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:314-316

Madness and Modernism

Louis A. Sass

July 24, 1996. In the course of a muddily argued and rather selfimportant book essay that recently appeared in JAPA (44/1), Donald Kuspit makes some passing remarks that denigrate my book Madness and Modernism (Basic Books, 1992; Harvard University Press, 1994) and simultaneously demonstrate his utter failure to grasp (or perhaps to read) my argument.

Kuspit describes me as attempting to “pathologize” modern art and ascribes to me “bourgeois” and “philistine” views that he likens to “the Nazi denunciation of [modernist art] in 1937 as ‘degenerate.’” The target of Kuspit's overblown rhetoric (with its ham-fisted attempt to ascribe guilt by association) is my statement that much of modernist art demonstrates “certain off-putting characteristics … a quality of being hard to understand or to feel one's way into,” a quality which—I argue—can be seen to have certain affinities with the experience and expression of schizophrenic individuals. Readers unwary enough to take Kuspit's article seriously will come away with a very mistaken impression of what I have written.

Contrary to what Kuspit seems to imply, Madness and Modernism is not, in fact, a psychoanalytic but a phenomenological or, rather, comparative-phenomenological study.

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