The perfect home for the imbalanced : visual culture and the built space of the asylum in early twentieth century and post war Saskatchewan
Matheson, Elizabeth Mavis
In the dominant North American imagination, the asylum has always been a place of the “other” in society. Stories of Saskatchewan asylums and their reincarnations as mental hospitals are filled with early twentieth century horror narratives and redemptive tales of mid-century scientific progress: the monstrousness of the labyrinthine asylum structures and its arcane treatments, the modern marvels of the experimental therapies and the lives saved by the scientific authorities. Still some of the most infamous buildings to haunt provincial imagination, mental hospitals became more than buildings designed to treat disease in Saskatchewan: they were a cultural phenomenon. The hospitals themselves became social objects invested with meanings which shaped social relations. This thesis investigates how the built structure of the asylum and in particular the North Battleford and Weyburn Mental Hospitals were perceived, experienced and theorized in early twentieth century and post-war Saskatchewan society. In analyzing architectural drawings, floor plans, television documentaries, photographs and patients' personal stories, this dissertation takes a critical look at how patients and staff were situated within the built structure at certain points and in particular during the Weyburn Mental Hospital’s extensive earlier twentieth century history and its mid-century re-birth as a modern psychiatric research centre. Feminist and post-colonial debates about the history of medicine and eugenics, spatial and socio-practices of power within built structure and the representation of patients and health professionals in colonial and modern society are also examined as a means to situate the discussion of the mental hospital within the broader context of the discussion on spatial discourses.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
DepartmentArt and Art History
ProgramArt and Art History
SupervisorHamilton, Paul; Purdue, Peter; Bell, Keith T.
CommitteeBell, Lynne; Downe, Pamela; Haig Bartley, Pamela; Holmlund, Mona
Copyright DateJune 2010
Saskatchewan Mental Hospitals