When Historical Research Isn’t

Ian McEwanMind Hacks has run a great piece about a 2001 BBC review of Ian McEwan’s 1997 book, Enduring Love. The book features a case of De Clerambault’s Syndrome (erotomania) in which the victim has the delusion that someone else, usually of higher status, is in love with him or her. The review, however, erroneously claims that the condition was an invention of McEwan’s which has fooled other reviewers. To top things off, the book concludes with an apparent reprint of a De Clerambault’s Syndrome case study published in British Review of Psychiatry. Several reviewers, including some psychiatrists have taken this article to be the authentic inspiration for the book, but both the article an the journal are fictional (although the article references actual published research). Indeed, the e-zine Salon suggested in 1999 that McEwan’s deception amounted to turnabout for the famed Sokal Hoax of 1996 in which an NYU physicist managed to publish a nonsense piece in a postmodern cultural studies journal. O! The tangled web we weave…

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.