Skip to main content
Back to Results
Cover image of Nightmare Factories
Cover image of Nightmare Factories
Share this Title:

Nightmare Factories

The Asylum in the American Imagination

Troy Rondinone

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy

How the insane asylum came to exert such a powerful hold on the American imagination.

Madhouse, funny farm, psychiatric hospital, loony bin, nuthouse, mental institution: no matter what you call it, the asylum has a powerful hold on the American imagination. Stark and foreboding, they symbolize mistreatment, fear, and imprisonment, standing as castles of despair and tyranny across the countryside. In the "asylum" of American fiction and film, treatments are torture, attendants are thugs, and psychiatrists are despots.

In Nightmare Factories, Troy Rondinone offers the first history of mental…

How the insane asylum came to exert such a powerful hold on the American imagination.

Madhouse, funny farm, psychiatric hospital, loony bin, nuthouse, mental institution: no matter what you call it, the asylum has a powerful hold on the American imagination. Stark and foreboding, they symbolize mistreatment, fear, and imprisonment, standing as castles of despair and tyranny across the countryside. In the "asylum" of American fiction and film, treatments are torture, attendants are thugs, and psychiatrists are despots.

In Nightmare Factories, Troy Rondinone offers the first history of mental hospitals in American popular culture. Beginning with Edgar Allan Poe's 1845 short story "The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether," Rondinone surveys how American novelists, poets, memoirists, reporters, and filmmakers have portrayed the asylum and how those representations reflect larger social trends in the United States. Asylums, he argues, darkly reflect cultural anxieties and the shortcomings of democracy, as well as the ongoing mistreatment of people suffering from mental illness.

Nightmare Factories traces the story of the asylum as the masses have witnessed it. Rondinone shows how works ranging from Moby-Dick and Dracula to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Halloween, and American Horror Story have all conversed with the asylum. Drawing from fictional and real accounts, movies, personal interviews, and tours of mental hospitals both active and defunct, Rondinone uncovers a story at once familiar and bizarre, where reality meets fantasy in the foggy landscape of celluloid and pulp.

Jump to
Quick Add
Nightmare Factories

Troy Rondinone

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy
Related

Related Books

Cover image of Committed
Committed

Dinah Miller, MD, and Annette Hanson, MD
foreword by Pete Earley

$22.95
Quick Add
Committed

Dinah Miller, MD, and Annette Hanson, MD
foreword by Pete Earley

Publication Date
Binding Type
Preorder
Replayed

Henry LowoodBRedited by Raiford Guins

$50.00
Quick Add
Replayed

Henry LowoodBRedited by Raiford Guins

Publication Date: June 6, 2023
Binding Type
Preorder
Making Machines of Animals

Neal A. Knapp

$60.00
Quick Add
Making Machines of Animals

Neal A. Knapp

Publication Date: May 9, 2023
Binding Type
Preorder
Cover image of A Centaur in London
A Centaur in London

Fabian Kraemer

$60.00
Quick Add
A Centaur in London

Fabian Kraemer

Publication Date: April 25, 2023
Binding Type
Preorder
Cover image of The Interlopers
The Interlopers

Vera Keller

$60.00
Quick Add
The Interlopers

Vera Keller

Publication Date: April 18, 2023
Binding Type
Reviews

Reviews

Will appeal to a broad range of readers, from academics interested in the history of medicine and popular culture, to general readers seeking social history rooted in an imaginative variety of sources.

Nightmare Factories has substance, style, and polish. Troy Rondinone's arguments are clear and convincing. He shows that the cultural history of the asylum is about more than the asylum itself—it's about many of the most troublesome social problems: inequalities of gender, race, and class; the proper scope of individual responsibility; what it means to be normal.

A capacious and engaging study of the mental institution and its multifaceted representations in US culture. Its range is formidable, traversing centuries and tackling analyses of canonical and genre fiction.

Troy Rondinone persuasively argues with abundant examples that cultural tropes about institutional abuses of the mentally ill have obscured the new 'snake pits' of the streets and prisons. A compelling statement for a new narrative of mental illness that includes humane, universal health care.

A lively and engaging examination of the place of the asylum in popular culture from the eighteenth-century Gothic novel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestNightmare Factories is an accessible and entertaining look at a world we have now mostly lost.

See All Reviews
About

Book Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Chapter 1. The Enchanter's Castle
Chapter 2: Woman in White, Angel in Black
Chapter 3: Monsters of the Asylum
Chapter 4: Freudian Rescues

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Chapter 1. The Enchanter's Castle
Chapter 2: Woman in White, Angel in Black
Chapter 3: Monsters of the Asylum
Chapter 4: Freudian Rescues
Chapter 5: The Dawning Age of Paranoia
Chapter 6: They're Coming to Take You Away
Chapter 7: The Asylum Next Door
Chapter 8: Asylums Don't Work
Chapter 9: Breakout
Chapter 10: Standardization
Chapter 11: Return of the Gothic
Epilogue: Real Horrors
Notes
Inde0

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Troy Rondinone

Troy Rondinone is a professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University. He is the author of The Great Industrial War: Framing Class Conflict in the Media, 1865–1950 and Friday Night Fighter: Gaspar "Indio" Ortega and the Golden Age of Television Boxing.