From Transmissions of Madness to Machines of Writing: Mina Loy's Insel as Clinical Fantasy

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This article argues that Mina Loy’s forgotten novel Insel may be read as a valuable resource for understanding modernism’s relation to madness. I argue that it is the story of a “lay analysis” of a psychotic conducted by an avant-garde writer. Through this novelistic case study, Loy engages with a long history of psychotherapies in an effort to synthesize a more ethical way of relating to madness. As a result, the writings and delusions of psychotics emerge as rich cultural resources that may teach us about not only their private delusions but also the anxieties specific to their historical moment. Formally, Insel evokes the very modernist genre of the psychoanalytic case study in order to subject it to a radical ethical critique. The novel asks whether such writing constitutes a form of exploitation of and violence to the subjects that it describes. Through these formal and ethical interventions, Insel multiplies the ways in which madness might be written.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-162
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Mina Loy
  • Insel
  • madness
  • technology
  • case study
  • psychoanalysis


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