“Entre médecine, culture et pensée sociopolitique : le concept de dégénérescence au Québec (1860–1925),” by Johanne Collin and David Hughes. The abstract reads,
La présente étude se penche sur les rapports entre la psychiatrie, la culture et la pensée sociopolitique au Québec. Notre approche s’inspire des travaux de Mark Micale sur le concept d’hystérie en France. Dans The Mind of Modernism, Micale démontre l’omniprésence de l’hystérie dans l’imaginaire collectif français au tournant du siècle. Notre objectif est de déterminer si un concept psychiatrique a pu jouer un rôle semblable au Québec à la même période. Nous démontrons que le concept de dégénérescence a pénétré la nosographie officielle, les publications médicales, les revues, la fiction ainsi que les discours sociopolitiques québécois.
In The Mind of Modernism, Mark Micale demonstrates the ubiquity of the concept of hysteria in the French imagination at the turn of the century. Taking this approach as our starting point, our study attempts to determine if the notion of degeneration played a similar role in the interactions of psychiatry, culture and politics in Quebec. Our analysis of a variety of historical sources demonstrates that the concept of degeneration did indeed penetrate aspects of psychiatric nosology, medical literature, news media, fiction, and political discourse in Quebec.
Introduction: “Cinema and Neuroscience: Development and Application of Cinematography in the Field of the Neurosciences,” by Geneviève Aubert. No abstract.
“Capturing Motion and Depth Before Cinematography,” by Nicholas J. Wade. The abstract reads,
Visual representations of biological states have traditionally faced two problems: they lacked motion and depth. Attempts were made to supply these wants over many centuries, but the major advances were made in the early-nineteenth century. Motion was synthesized by sequences of slightly different images presented in rapid succession and depth was added by presenting slightly different images to each eye. Apparent motion and depth were combined some years later, but they tended to be applied separately. The major figures in this early period were Wheatstone, Plateau, Horner, Duboscq, Claudet, and Purkinje. Others later in the century, like Marey and Muybridge, were stimulated to extend the uses to which apparent motion and photography could be applied to examining body movements. These developments occurred before the birth of cinematography, and significant insights were derived from attempts to combine motion and depth.
Jones identifies Hurst’s provocative footage of disordered movement as having lasting historical impact on our comprehension of how shell shock presented itself and was understood by contemporaries of the first World War; he then asserts the film was a non-representative and highly mediated rendition of the condition as experienced by the soldiers in that context. Jones goes on to elucidate the skeptical response of other psychiatric professionals to Hurst’s methods and claims to unprecedented and outstanding therapeutic efficacy, for which Hurst provided little explanation or followup.
The journal History of Psychiatry is celebrating its 25th anniversary. A special issue marking the occasion has just been released. Among the articles in the issue are ones addressing the history of nostalgia, the treatment of shell shock at the Maudsley Hospital, masculinity in Victorian asylums in New Zealand and Australian, the distinction between passion and emotion, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
Editorial: “The first 25 years of History of Psychiatry,” by German E Berrios.
“Some reflections on madness and culture in the post-war world,” by Andrew Scull. The abstract reads,
This article examines the treatment of madness as a theme in drama, opera and films, concentrating its attention for the most part on the period between World War II and the 1980s. These were the years in which psychoanalysis dominated psychiatry in the USA, and so Freud’s influence in the broader culture forms the central though not the sole focus of the analysis.
An article in the just released February issue of Social History of Medicine may be of interest to some AHP readers. In “The Construction of Shell Shock in New Zealand, 1919–1939: A Reassessment” Gwen Parsons explores different accounts of shell shock provided by the army and the medical community during and immediately after World War One. Full article details follows below,
This article explores the competing constructions of shell shock in New Zealand during and after the Great War. It begins by considering the army’s construction of shell shock as a discipline problem, before going on to consider the medical profession’s attempts to place it within a somatic and then psychogenic paradigm. While shell shock was initially viewed as a psychogenic condition in New Zealand, within a few years of the end of the war it had become increasingly subject to medical understandings of the psychiatric profession, who dominated the treatment of the mentally ill. It is the psychiatric understanding of shell shock which generally defined the treatment of shell shocked veterans within New Zealand after the war. In addition, this medical definition shaped but did not entirely define the government’s repatriation response to shell shocked soldiers. In a number of cases the government saw its responsibility to shell shocked soldiers as going beyond the limits of the psychiatric paradigm, and it responded positively to the veteran lobbying for extensions to the repatriation provisions for shell shocked soldiers. This article concludes by considering why the treatment of New Zealand’s shell shocked soldiers has generally been viewed so negatively within the national historiography.
The July 2012 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are two articles that tackle the history of mental health. The first article describes the work of Arthur Hurst who filmed soldiers suffering from shell shock post World War I. Further films by Hurst were used to convey the message that these soldiers could be “cured” with relative ease. The second mental health related article in this issue explores the relationship between mentally ill smokers and the tobacco industry, including efforts to cast smoking as an activity with positive effects for the mentally ill. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“War Neuroses and Arthur Hurst: A Pioneering Medical Film about the Treatment of Psychiatric Battle Casualties,” by Edgar Jones. The abstract reads,
From 1917 to 1918, Major Arthur Hurst filmed shell-shocked patients home from the war in France. Funded by the Medical Research Committee, and using Pathé cameramen, he recorded soldiers who suffered from intractable movement disorders as they underwent treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley and undertook programs of occupational therapy at Seale Hayne in Devon. As one of the earliest UK medical films, Hurst’s efforts may have drawn inspiration from the official documentary of the Battle of the Somme and films made in 1916 by French Army neurologists. Although initially motivated to make use of a novel medium to illustrate lectures, Hurst was alert to the wider appeal of the motion picture and saw an opportunity to position himself in the postwar medical hierarchy. Some “before treatment” shots were reenacted for the camera. Hurst, like some other shell shock doctors, openly used deception as a therapeutic measure. On the basis that the ends justified the means, they defended this procedure as ethical. Clinicians also took advantage of changes in military regulations to address functional symptoms. Claims made of “cures” in the film and associated publications by Hurst were challenged by other doctors treating shell shock. The absence of follow-up data and evidence from war pension files suggested that Hurst may have overstated the effectiveness of his methods. Nevertheless, the message conveyed in the film that chronic cases could be treated in a single session had a powerful resonance for ambitious or charismatic doctors and was revived in World War II.
The June issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology is now online. The month’s Time Capsule section examines the work of British psychologist Charles S. Myers on shell shock during World War I. Historian of medicine and psychiatry Edgar Jones examines Myers efforts establish shell shock as a legitimate condition – and not mere malingering – and to treat those affected. As Jones described,
The first cases Myers described exhibited a range of perceptual abnormalities, such as loss of or impaired hearing, sight and sensation, along with other common physical symptoms, such as tremor, loss of balance, headache and fatigue. He concluded that these were psychological rather than physical casualties, and believed that the symptoms were overt manifestations of repressed trauma.
Along with William McDougall, another psychologist with a medical background, Myers argued that shell shock could be cured through cognitive and affective reintegration. The shell-shocked soldier, they thought, had attempted to manage a traumatic experience by repressing or splitting off any memory of a traumatic event. Symptoms, such as tremor or contracture, were the product of an unconscious process designed to maintain the dissociation. Myers and McDougall believed a patient could only be cured if his memory were revived and integrated within his consciousness, a process that might require a number of sessions.
The full article, Shell Shocked, can be read online here.
AHP readers may also be interested in a series of 5 films of World War I era soldiers suffering from shell shock posted online by the Wellcome Library (previously discussed on AHP here). The first of these is featured below.
The January 2012 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences has just been released online. Included in this issue are a number of articles that may be of interest to historians of psychology and related fields. A special issue devoted to recent developments in the intellectual history of medicine, the issue includes articles on sexual inversion, shell shock (right), koro as a culture-bound syndrome, and the rise of hypnosis in Germany, among other topics. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Recent Developments in the Intellectual History of Medicine: A Special Issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine,” by Chiara Beccalossi and Peter Cryle. An extract from this introduction to the special issue reads,
The history of medicine is probably best thought of as a wide range of different types of inquiry, rather than a single, well-defined field. It can involve, among other things, the history of institutions, technologies, and outstanding individuals. The articles gathered in this special issue are offered specifically as contributions to the intellectual history of medicine. Each shows, in its own way, how a particular disorder became conceptualized or how a particular set of difficulties was made into a topic of debate. Inquiry of this kind is not quite the same thing as a history of ideas—if by the latter one understands only the study of ideas as they traverse medical writing—since our concern is not with major ideas in the field of medicine, as such. One of our working assumptions is that intellectual history ought to be no grander an enterprise than social history at its most focused, or cultural history at its most closely bounded. We will simply examine ways of thinking that prevailed at given points in history, indicating the material consequences to which they gave rise. By seeking to articulate thought, writing, and professional practice, we are responding to the challenge Michel Foucault laid down for historians. But the histories offered here are not “Foucauldian” in the manner of histories that focus primarily on articulating epistemic “rupture” and unprecedented conceptual “invention.” The point of our contributions is to examine the contexts in which new kinds of thinking emerged gradually, and often unevenly. We seek, as Foucault did at his best, to highlight the circumstantial nature of thought and the intellectually productive nature of circumstance.
This special issue had its beginnings in a seminar series conducted in 2009 by the Center for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland…
Two forthcoming articles in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (JHMAS), on topics associated with the history of psychology, have been published online. The first article, by Edgar Jones, describes the psychological understanding of shell shock in Britain at the time of the First World War, while the other details the potentionally pathological relationship thought to exist between music and nerves at the turn of the nineteenth century. Title, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Shell Shock at Maghull and the Maudsley: Models of Psychological Medicine in the UK” by Edgar Jones. The abstract reads:
The shell-shock epidemic of 1915 challenged the capacity and expertise of the British Army’s medical services. What appeared to be a novel and complex disorder raised questions of causation and treatment. To address these pressing issues, Moss Side Military Hospital at Maghull became a focus for experiment in the developing field of psychological medicine as clinicians from diverse backgrounds and disciplines were recruited and trained at this specialist treatment unit. Continue reading Shell Shock in JHMAS→