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Graceful Insanity: A History of McClean [US]:
Famously, Sylvia Plath indelibly etched McClean into our consciousness with her thinly veiled descriptions of it and her electroshock therapy in her book The Bell Jar (published in Britain three months after her death in 1963, Plath had called it her “pot boiler.” It became one of the most well-read and influential books for women of the twentieth century. An ode to depression and to a certain otherness that so many young girls and even women could relate too.

The same was true for poet Anne Sexton who had originally taught poetry at McLean, apparently pestering the administration until she was granted her wish to teach a class and evaluate the work of the residents. Sexton loved the work and while many were skeptical of her motives (was this part of a book deal she was hoping for, some prestige perhaps); she would have her own breakdown and was eventually placed in the very same ward where she had taught. How the mighty fell, and by most accounts, the stunningly beautiful Sexton (who could have, it is said, easily passed for a model), roamed the hallways of her ward in a trance-like state, barely speaking to anybody. True enough, she would go on to write about her experiences at McClean, but there is little doubt that her breakdown and break from reality was real. Like Plath, Sexton needed to be there.

Robert Lowell, a friend of Plath’s and a great admirer (whom she too admired) was also a McClean resident in the earlier days, and while little is known of the actual reasons for Lowell’s stay, one can easily guess they had to do with depression and a general breakdown of sorts – those very things that had brought and would bring some of Boston’s finest Brahmins and others from all areas of the country to McClean.
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