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Faculty

Lisa Hermsen

Chair/Associate Professor
Office: 
2303 Liberal Arts
Phone: 
(585) 475-4553
PhD, Rhetoric and Professional Communication Iowa State University of Science & Technology, Ames IA, 2002
MA, English/Rhetoric & Composition Iowa State University of Science & Technology, Ames IA, 1997
MA, English/Literature University of Missouri-Columbia

Manic Minds: Mania's Mad History and Its Neuro Future (Rutgers UP, 2011) is what I call a "rhetorical history" of the maniac: how is mania as madness defined/described in textbooks? how are the images of the mad, crazy, insane, lunatic, abnormal represented? how do we explain the profound fear and fascination with madness? how do we recognize our own madness? The book argues that mania has never been stabilized as a modern medicalized disorder. The manifestation of "mania" in American psychiatry has emerged fluid from pre-professional to professional psychiatry and now persists frenzied into the neuro-future. This book charts a new direction in the ontological politics of mania, pointing not necessarily to something more disciplined and reasonable, but to something more neurologically radical and (hopefully) better.

I have followed up on my interest in the history of medicine and the history of madness, in particular, in several digital projects. I collaborated with Elizabeth Goins, Lisa Rosner, and the College of Physicians on an NEH-sponsored project, "Pox in the City: A Digital Role-Playing Game in the History of Medicine." http://poxandthecity.blogspot.com

I  also worked with Elizabeth Goins on a paper published in the proceedings to the conference Meaningful Play in 2012. The paper is titled "Hysteria: An Experiment in Historic Interactive Game Narrative." It is a great attempt at taking a short story ("The Yellow Wall-Paper") into an interactive game space. We've found this play allows for the integration of primary sources, which clearly provide an intextual space and thus create a rich environment for the story. The full game remains in progress.

Currently, I am working on a 3D Virtual Preservation of the Richardson Olmsted Complex. I am working with Professor Shaun Foster and a team of students to recreate a Thomas Kirbride model asylum, the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, as it would have stood in 1895. The remains of the Complex are to be reconstructed as a boutique hotel with all the comforts of modern tourism. Our goal is to restore the building in a virtual rendering from blueprints and photographs, as well as a site visit, so we can remember the therapeutic architecture and grounds as the built space that H. H. Richardson and Frederick Law Olmsted intended.