Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 147–158

Being Approximate: The Ganser Syndrome and Beyond

  • Mady Schutzman

DOI: 10.1023/A:1021318118143

Cite this article as:
Schutzman, M. Journal of Medical Humanities (2003) 24: 147. doi:10.1023/A:1021318118143


The Ganser syndrome, or “talking past the point,” (originally identifying symptoms of inmates on remand when questioned by prison doctors), is explored as a form of insubordination against the stigmatizing effects of overdetermined diagnostic categories. The strategies of approximation that characterize the syndrome are likened to comedy routines/vaudeville styles and to their employment of punning, clownery, and ambiguity to challenge the more privileged cultural values of clarity, literalness, and precision. The seeming craftiness of Ganserians is related to the aesthetic tactics of the trickster figure and to the physical buffoonery of hysterics. Stylistically, this paper synthesizes the languages of critical theory, Gracie Allen routines, personal narrative, jokes, and poetic reflections on the notion of being approximate.


Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mady Schutzman
    • 1
  1. 1.MFA Writing ProgramCalifornia Institute of the ArtsValencia