The Internment of the Great: Ludwig Binswanger and the Bellevue clinic

Chantal Marazia


During the 19th and 20th centuries the private Bellevue asylum (in Kreuzlingen, Swizerland) was one of the most famous psychiatric clinics in the world. Yet little is known about the therapeutic practices of this legendary institution, which was directed by the Swiss psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger from 1911 to 1956. This essay explores Binswanger's clinical activity, focusing in particular on his somatic treatments such as insulinshock, electroshock and lobotomy. This paper shows that the choice of a specific type of therapy ultimately not only depended on diagnosis and prognosis, but also that the main elements of the cure were also based on patients􏰂 intellectual qualities and artistic talent. In fact, it is shown that at the Bellevue intellectuals and artists benefited from a privileged status, a tacit professional immunity exempting them from invasive therapies.

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