Book announcement – Schreiben am Rand. Die ‚kantonale Irrenanstalt Waldau‘ und ihre Narrative (1895-1936)



Martina Wernli, a Research Fellow at the University of Würzbuerg, just publishes a book on the narratives produced inside a Swiss asylum in the first 20th century. The blurb reads:

The book is concerned with selected texts, which were written in the Bernische kantonale Irrenanstalt Waldau (Switzerland) at the beginning of the 20th century. The study follows the questions, what was written in a certain clinic, Waldau, at this time, how someone would write there, who writes and why they write and what about. The thesis analyses various types of texts concerning their form and content. This assembly of texts interlaces and shows the clinic as a place of writing.

The presentation of this specific place of writing concentrates on the time between 1895 and 1936 because of the presence of well-known patients: in 1895, Adolf Wölfli (1864–1930) is brought to Waldau for an examination, in 1936, Friedrich Glauser (1896–1938) is allowed to leave the mental institution and between 1929 and 1933, Robert Walser (1878–1956) stays interned there.

After theoretically exploring the alliance between writing an place, the thesis persists of two main parts: In the first, the history of the clinic and its protagonists are focused, whereas the second part is dealing with texts both well-known and nameless patients as well as with medical records. The thesis shows, how in writing as a performative act, the clinic becomes visible and legible and how through this process the requirements of the clinic are built, but also addressed and it shows how these requirements form the condition of future writing in the setting of the closed clinic.

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