Schreber Live! A Celebration of Memoirs of My Nervous Illness

“In what circumstances can a person considered insane be detained in an Asylum against his declared will?”

-Daniel Paul Schreber, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness

This past weekend, Hearing Voices New York City, along with the International Society for the Psychological & Social Approaches to Psychosis and Das Unbehagen, staged an event called “Schreber Live!” which celebrated Daniel Paul Schreber’s first person account of “madness”, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness. The event took place at the Jefferson Market Library and featured lectures, performances, visual art, poetry, and dance. One of the main features of the event was people scattered through-out the building, reading passages from the text. The purpose of the event was stated during the introduction:

“Schreber’s book–which is at once a memoir, a historical document, and a judicial treatise in support of his release from the asylum– is one of the most widely-known and cited first-person accounts of what is commonly called “madness”. Like the book, the Jefferson Market Library, is not only a location for literary pursuits, but once served as a court-house during the 1800s. In the garden behind the building stood a women’s house of detention, demolished in 1973. The brick-arched basement, served as a holding cell for prisoners on their way to jail or trial. In more recent times, the library was also the site of first community-based non-clinical peer-support group for voice-hearers in New York City.  Today, as we celebrate Daniel Paul Schreber’s book within this courthouse-turned-library, there is a sense of redemption, of his words being taken seriously, given their rightful place not only within a literary institution, but also within a lawful one.”

The event brought well-over 150 people, many of which stated the power of reading Schreber’s words inside an old courthouse:

“It was amazing to be in that space and in those strange and tragic and wondrous discursive spaces, modern and old.”

“It was quite powerful for me to read Schreber to all who passed by and some who stopped to listen a bit.  I loved hearing other readers and dropping in on whatever section they happened to be reading.  The whole event was really great.  Schreber would have been, and was, at home.”

“…it was a powerful experience. It truly felt like Schreber’s life, work, and experience, and the representation of those of others who have had similar experiences , were honored via this event.”

Images of the devices Schreber’s father created for child-rearing
Participants in a one-act play of Chapter 21 of the Memoirs
Gregory Shankland speaking on his own experiences of voices