Virginia Woolf and her doctors
It is generally believed that Virginia Woolf was mad. However, none of the commentators who have made this assertion have presented a clear definition of what they mean by 'madness' or 'insanity'. By reconstructing Virginia Woolf's own point of view from her autobiographical and fictional writings, it is possible to make sense of the various breakdowns and crises which marked her life, and which are reflected in her work. One theme which runs through all her work is a concern with the problem of embodiment. By turning our attention to what Virginia Woolf had to say on this subject, we can gain a deeper insight into her situation. Throughout her life, Virginia Woolf was treated by a number of leading doctors of 'psychological medicine'. Their writings make it clear that the concept of madness as it was applied to her is not so much a medical diagnosis as a theoretical justification for the enforcement of certain social, political, sexual, moral and aesthetic values. Considered in the light of this 'discourse of power' and the oppression which it implies, Virginia Woolf's work takes on an added significance.