Wednesday 1 January 2014

‘Sanity’, ‘Madness’ and Shakespeare. Inner Circle Seminar 202 (27 April 2014)

William Shakespeare
‘Sanity’, ‘Madness’ and Shakespeare

For the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth
(23 April 1564)
and the 50th anniversary of the publication of
R. D. Laing and Aaron Esterson’s
Sanity, Madness and the Family
(April 1964)

R. D. Laing

Anthony Stadlen
conducts Inner Circle Seminar No. 202
Sunday 27 April 2014
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.
Aaron Esterson
Thus, in 1964, R. D. Laing and Aaron Esterson introduced their revolutionary descriptions of eleven families of ‘schizophrenics’. But fifty years on, the ‘clinical viewpoint’ still rules supreme. Are Laing and Esterson ‘discredited’, as is claimed? Have they been proved wrong? Or are they not yet understood?
William Shakespeare throws light on this. He rejected both the demonological and the clinical viewpoints more than four hundred years ago.
For the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth (23 April 1564) and the 400th of his death (23 April 1616), we shall link Shakespeare’s existential, social-phenomenological studies of ‘madness’ in Hamlet, Lear and other plays with a new series of seminars on each of Laing and Esterson’s eleven family dramas (we held a first series of eleven seminars ten years ago). Today we begin with a general comparison of these two bodies of work, each unsurpassed in its field.
Hilary Mantel, the celebrated contemporary writer, has movingly described how reading Sanity, Madness and the Family when she was twenty-one gave her the courage to write (
Some of us need a little push, before we recognise we have the right to pick up a pen. In my case it came from a book by the psychiatrists R. D. Laing and Aaron Esterson, Sanity, Madness and the Family... The people in it seemed close enough to touch... Each interview is a novel or play in miniature. So many of these family conversations seemed familiar to me: their swerves and evasions, their doubleness... For most of my life I had been told that I didn't know how the world worked. That afternoon I decided I did know, after all. In the course of my twenty-one years I'd noticed quite a lot. If I wanted to be a writer, I didn't have to worry about inventing material, I'd already got it. The next stage was just to find some words.
Adrian Laing, biographer of his father R. D. Laing, will conduct an Inner Circle Seminar on his father on 14 December. He writes (R. D. Laing: A Life, 2nd edition, 2006, p. xxiv):
The highly respected Anthony Stadlen, who has practised as an existential-phenomenological psychotherapist in London for over thirty years, continues to this day to hold well-attended and regular seminars in London on a wide variety of existential-psychotherapy-related topics, including dedicated all-day sessions focusing on the individual families featured in the ground-breaking work Sanity, Madness and the Family, first published over forty years ago.
Venue: ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE

Cost:    Psychotherapy trainees £116, others £145, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water and liquorice allsorts included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail: 

For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

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