The 19th century saw considerable scientific study of the architecture of the brain and spinal cord. However, this made no contribution either to clinical care or cure of the insane. ‘Madness and meaning ’ explores the alternative vision of the sources of mental disturbance that sought explanations in the realm of human psychology, and treatment by psychodynamic means. Instead of being meaningless noise, the epiphenomenal manifestations of a physically damaged brain, Freudian psychoanalysis insisted that disturbed affect, cognition, and actions were of the utmost significance, and held the key to unlocking the sources of madness. Literature, painting, drama, films, and advertising were all profoundly influenced by Freudian symbolism and ideas.