A Simple Fellow Given to Blowing at Feathers, Exploited by His Grasping Brothers

Roy Porter

  • From Idiocy to Mental Deficiency: Historical Perspectives on People with Learning Disabilities edited by David Wright and Anne Digby
    Routledge, 238 pp, £45.00, October 1996, ISBN 0 415 11215 X

It is easy to conjure up landscapes of the past peopled by holy fools, and to suppose that medieval times were full of simpleton jesters, and boy bishops leading rites of inversion and showing how all sinners were equal in God’s eyes. It is equally easy to imagine a subsequent darkening of the plain – the old Christian reverence for simplicity yielding to the carceral project of modernity, Foucault’s great confinement.

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