Nataša Polgar


This essay addresses the period of the second half of the nineteenth century, in which the genre of belief legends plays a key role in understanding the mechanisms of ideology and its repercussions on the interconnectedness of madness, the monstrous and the feminine in the social and cultural context, in which different types of women’s transgressions are more often and more severely sanctioned, thus affecting the psychiatric discourse. Using archival material from the first psychiatric institution in Croatia, the article interrogates the role of a specific type of female patient narratives featuring demonological beings, called belief legends by folklore studies, and their fundamental discursive incompatibility with psychiatric, scientific, rational and male discourse, which interprets belief legends simply as a symptom of madness.