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Barbara Taylor – The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times

Barbara Taylor - The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times

The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times

Speaker: Barbara Taylor

Wednesday, March 30, 2016, 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Fee: $50

Please note: CME credits are not available for this event.
Preregistration is required.

Barbara Taylor is a Canadian born Professor in Humanities at Queen Mary University of London, teaching English and History, with an extensive publication, positions and awards list, including being a finalist in the Canadian 2015 RBC Taylor Prize. She has written a book called The Last Asylum: a Memoir of Madness in our Times (published by Hamish Hamilton in 2014) about her own experiences as a patient several times in a mental hospital in England and in a decades-long psychoanalysis. It is highly praised. She is very interested to pursue research in this field and would very much like to meet with psychoanalysts and psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapists to share her insights and to learn more from their perspectives about patients and treatments. The Last Asylum is available on, including a kindle version and an excellent description of the book and reviews and it is reviewed extensively under its own title on the internet (Google). Meeting and talking with her promises to be an absorbing, enriching experience for anyone interested in the intensive and various treatments of a person just like ourselves in what the mental health system offers contemporary patients.‎

Learning Objectives:

  1. Become acquainted with the personal, real-life experiences of a professional woman as she moved through various modalities of the mental health system as a patient.
  2. Use the knowledge she shares as a basis for understanding what your own patients may experience as they do likewise, and preparing them for it.
  3. Be alert to opportunities and ways of advocating for improvements to the mental health care system regarding efficiency and effectiveness.
  4. Consider the value, and promote improvements if possible, of the current diagnostic system of classifying patient’s illnesses and relating this to the settings and treatments offered.

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Barbara Taylor

Barbara Taylor is a historian whose previous books include an award-winning study of nineteenth-century socialist feminism, Eve and the New Jerusalem; an intellectual biography of the pioneer feminist Mary Wollstonecraft; and On Kindness, a defence of fellow feeling co-written with the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. She is a long-standing editor of the leading history publication History Workshop Journal and a director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre. She teaches history and English at Queen Mary University of London.

The Last Asylum

In July 1988, Canadian-born historian Barbara Taylor was admitted to Friern Hospital, a once-notorious asylum for the insane. Her journey there began when, overwhelmed by anxiety as she completed her doctoral studies in London, England, she found relief by dosing herself with alcohol and tranquillizers. She then embarked on what would turn out to be a decades-long psychoanalysis.

The analysis dredged up acutely painful memories of an unhappy and confusing childhood back in Saskatoon. As Taylor struggled to cope with these, she would twice be re-admitted to Friern. She took refuge in day-care institutions and a psychiatric hostel, all the while continuing her therapy, which eventually put her on the road to recovery.

This searingly honest, beautifully written memoir is the narrative of the author’s madness years, set inside the wider story of our treatment of psychiatric illness: from the great age of asylums to the current era of community care, ‘Big Pharma’, and quick fixes. It is a meditation on her own experience as well as that of millions of others – both in Europe and in North America – who have suffered, are suffering, and will suffer from mental illness.

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