he changeability of ‘reason’ and ‘unreason’ Foucault

he changeability of ‘reason’ and ‘unreason’ Foucault proposes the “task of restoring reason from that unreason.” Presumably he alludes to an existing barrier; that somehow there is a discourse for the ‘mad’ and a separate discourse for the ‘non-mad.’ Poe’s The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether  is perhaps an appropriate starting point to dispute this. Poe describes a mental institution where there is an uprising of the patients who lock their superintendents within their own cells and pretend to be the staff, deceiving the narrator who does not notice this reversal until the conclusion when the superintendents break out. The narrator perceives their slightly unusual behaviour, however merely concludes that “the world is made up off all kinds of people.” The narrator relies on the pre-established boundary: that ‘madness’ has a physical place in society, behind bars. Vitally, Poe illustrates that ‘reason’ and ‘unreason’ are not in binary opposition, but rather “are inextricably involved”,  the almost arbitrary margin is only distinguished by the locus of power.Sanity is similarly equated with power in One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest. The staff of the hospital are considered ‘sane’ and therefore assume a socially sanctioned role of power. Nurse deems the “present illness” of the inhabitants of the institute to be their inability “to adjust to the rules of society in the Outside world” and thereby defines ‘madness’ as non-conformity. McMurphy’s propensity to “fight too much and fuck too much” means he is incarcerated in “Pendleton Farm for Correction”, however his transfer to the mental hospital is symbolic of the unclear boundary between breaking the law and being ‘mad’ in society. Moreover, Harding is voluntarily committed due to his belief that his homosexuality defines him as mentally unwell in society – “I indulged in certain practices that our society regards as shameful. And I got sick.” The asylum’s theory of “recovery” involves a total surrender of the self to an authority that converts individualism into mechanical conformity, as Bromden alludes “a completed product goes back out into society.” Nurse’s philosophy of “therapeutic community” allows her to perpetuate the men’s insecurities encouraging them to remain fearful and submissive. As one of the patients in the asylum suggests, he could live in the “Outside world” if only he had the “guts”; instead he finds safety in being institutionalised and considered “crazy.” Thus ‘madness’ becomes a form of escapism, as Bromden states, “like hiding. It’s the smart thing to do.” This may, however, be justifiable when ‘reason’, as represented by the hospital staff, becomes a tyrannical and destructive power. In contrast, Poe’s protagonist in The Tell-Tale Heart insists upon his ‘sanity’ but unwittingly convinces the reader of the reverse. The narrative is driven on the criminal’s assumption that ‘madness’ is incompatible with systematic action and so he proceeds to describe his behavioural precision and foresight as evidence of his ‘sanity.’ Ironically, he lays out an account of murder which ultimately betrays the ‘madness’ he endeavours to deny. The continual interjections pleading with the reader (‘would a madman have been so wise as this?’) exemplify the individual’s vulnerability but also his resistance to being judged by the reader. This resistance can similarly be seen in McMurphy who is able to see beyond the coercion of the hospital and eventually convinces the other men of his perspective. Their defiance of society is symbolised by their violation of Nurse’s “ward policy.”  Towards the end, Bromden sees that if the hospital’s forces are to entirely annihilate McMurphy’s influencing power, then the greatest act of preservation is to murder him rather than let him die slowly as a “vegetable” – a victim of society. Both Poe’s protagonist and the men in Kesey’s text show an awareness of their perceived inferiority to those deemed ‘sane’ and they protest against this.Both writers show ‘madness’ (‘unreason’) as subject to power dynamics within social evolution. The irony of both texts is the implicit question whether there is an assured position from which one can view or demystify ‘madness’ if we do not know if we are exterior to it. This is epitomised in McMurphy’s satirical remark “as near as I can tell I’m no looney, or never knew it if I was.” So, must ‘madness’ be confined within and defined by language (“arraigned by the work of art”) as Foucault suggests? I would argue that ‘madness’ has no clear boundaries and therefore cannot be comprehensively corralled by language, instead, it stands as an entity in its own right. However, perhaps what this analysis has intended to express most, is the richness of ‘madness’ as a literary vehicle which these texts demonstrate; whether that be to perform an interesting exhibition of characterisation within narratology or to be used as a veil beneath which social critique persists.