UCL/BPS Talks Feb 29 & Mar 7: Science of Religion & Freud’s Analysis of Haizmann

Johann Christoph Haizmann’s votive painting

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next two talks in their 2016 seminar series. Full details follow below.

Monday 29 February 2016
Matei Iagher (UCL), “Psychology and the quest for a science of religion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries”

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, a new intellectual discipline emerged in academic departments in the United States and Western Europe: the psychology of religion. Championed by figures like William James, Théodore Flournoy, Pierre Janet, and later C.G. Jung, the psychology of religion claimed to offer a novel science of religion, based on an equally new revalorization of individual religious experience. The psychology of religion drew on the affective definition of religion propounded by Friedrich Schleiermacher in the earlier part of the nineteenth century and placed itself in continuity (and sometimes in opposition) with projects to found a science of religion, which were drawn up by scholars like Max Müller or C. P. Tiele in the Victorian period. This paper will offer a brief overview of some of the key points of the psychology of religion, as it was practiced in the United States, France and Switzerland, and will place the movement within the context of wider debates about the nature and function of the science(s) of religion(s) at the turn of the century.

Monday 7 March 2016
Dr David Lederer (Maynooth University, Ireland/Queen Mary University of London), “‘A demonological neurosis’? Psychiatry, psychoanalysis and demonic possession in Freud’s analysis of Haizmann”

In 1923, Freud published an illustrated tract entitled ‘A Demonological Neurosis in the 17th Century’, in which he applied the tools of psychoanalysis to the autobiography of the Bavarian painter, Johann Christoph Haizmann. Freud’s analysis arose from a request by the Director of the Fideikomiss Library in Vienna to provide an expert opinion on the matter. Through a method known as ‘retrospective medicine’, Freud explained the painter’s possession as a consequence of his relationship to his father – a diagnosis not dissimilar to his more famous account of Daniel Schreber. However, the influence of demonology upon his nascent profession ran far deeper than this chance encounter with one historic case, revealing certain continuities which consequently call the value of retrospective medicine into question and raise interesting questions about the historical development of the modern psychiatric profession.

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.

Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.

From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foser court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She completed her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

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