Sanity, Madness and the Family
50 Years On
Family 8: The Heads
Dame Hilary Mantel Anthony Stadlen
Inner Circle Seminar No. 238
Sunday 18 June 2017
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
‘We believe that the shift of point of view that these descriptions both embody and demand has an historical significance no less radical than the shift from a demonological to a clinical viewpoint three hundred years ago.’
Thus, in Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics (1964), R. D. Laing and Aaron Esterson introduced their revolutionary descriptions of eleven families of ‘schizophrenics’. But fifty years on, the ‘clinical viewpoint’ still reigns supreme. Have Laing and Esterson been proved wrong? They wrote: ‘Nobody can deny us the right to disbelieve in schizophrenia.’ Why, then, do most psychiatrists and psychotherapists claim Laing and Esterson said ‘families cause schizophrenia’?
Hilary Mantel wrote that ‘the simple words the people speak’ in Laing and Esterson’s book gave her, at 20, the courage to write her own astonishing books. Her introductions to the seminars in this series have enthralled participants.
Anthony Stadlen continues to interview the eleven families in the twenty-first century. Today, in the eighth of eleven seminars, we shall explore Chapter 8, on ‘Jean Head’ and her family, with the help of Esterson’s original tape recordings on which the book is based; of photographs; and of Stadlen’s reports and recordings of his discussions with Jean and her family: Jean herself, her husband, her father, her brother, her sister-in-law, and her foster-brother. Your contribution to the dialogue will be warmly welcomed.