New Journal: History of the Present

The recently released second issue of a new journal, History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History, contains a number of articles relevant to the history of psychology. In particular, three articles deal with the history of psychoanalysis. Of these, one uses material culture to interrogate the case work of Jung and Freud, and two others address aspects of the recent history of neuropsychoanalysis. A further article traces the history of addiction, from its initial status as a moral disorder in the late-nineteenth century to its contemporary casting as a disease of the brain. Titles, authors, and brief excerpts follow below.

“‘I suffer in an unknown manner that is hieroglyphical’: Jung and Babette en route to Freud and Schreber,” by Angela Woods. (See photo, left.) The article begins,

To begin: two fragments. The first is an embroidered jacket. It belonged to a woman called Agnes Richter who lived in an Austrian asylum in the late 1890s. In the words of artist Renée Turner, the jacket is “embroidered so intensively that reading is impossible in certain areas. . . . Words appear and disappear into seams and under layers of thread. There is no beginning or end, just spirals of intersecting fragmentary narratives. She is declarative: ‘I,’ ‘mine,’ ‘my jacket,’ ‘my white stockings. . . .’, ‘I am in the Hubert-us-burg / ground floor,’ ‘children,’ ‘sister’ and ‘cook.’ In the inside she has written ‘1894 I am / I today woman.'” Re-embroidering the laundry number printed on her jacket, “something institutional and distant” is transformed “into something intimate, obsessive and possessive.” She transcribes herself. This is “hypertext”; this is “untamed writing.”

“Another Neurological Scene,” by Elizabeth A. Wilson. The article begins,

The blossoming interest in how to bring neuroscience and psychoanalysis together has produced a large number of texts since the 1990s, some primarily clinical, some populist, some principally academic. This essay is not a comprehensive review of the literature: the diversity of interests, audiences, and political and philosophical affiliations makes any attempt to summarize the field impossible. Instead the essay concerns itself with methodological questions: what kinds of interdisciplinarity are being practiced in the new neuroscience-psychoanalysis literatures? Which is to say: what methodological difficulties lie in the path of an alliance between the neurosciences and psychoanalysis? I will argue that one of the key difficulties these new projects have is how to work with knowledges that emerge out of contradictory needs and antagonistic histories. Too concerned with producing a strong, polished alloy out of various elements of neuroscience and psychoanalysis, these literatures tend to overlook the lines of fissure, the inconsistencies, flaws, and fractures that such alchemy must inevitably generate.

“The Brain in Abeyance: Freud and the Claim of Neuropsychoanalysis,” by Stefanos Geroulanos. The article begins,

Born of the epistemological auto-da-fé of physiology and neurology in the 1890s, psychoanalysis began to reach old age when new neuroscientific and physiological models for consciousness began to appear, in the long 1970s, to outperform it. For some seventy years, it spread its wings under the shadow of life sciences, belied by their determinist commitments, offering clinical as well as theoretical innovation well beyond the borders of its practice. And if at that fin de siècle Freud managed to bring disparate psychological elements together in a therapeutics of the talking cure, a metapsychology, and a theory of unconscious processes, then the richness of psychoanalysis, based on its intentionally indeterminist treatment of the body and on the exclusivity of its practice, came to appear unfruitful, speculative, and self-destructive with the coalescence of new neuroscientific and biological paradigms.

“The Metapharmacology of the ‘Addicted Brain’,” by Nancy D. Campbell. The article begins,

Addiction is a prime exemplar of a once-moral disorder now understood as a neurochemical “brain disorder” or “brain disease.” Since arising in the late nineteenth-century United States, the concept of “addiction” has been pressured by scientists and clinicians seeking to wrest addiction from its miscategorization as a moral weakness in order to recategorize it as an illness or disease. For the cadre of North American neuropsychopharmacologists discussed in this article, the addict’s stigmatized moral status was an obstacle to their science and a product of a psychoanalytic psychiatry, the dominant cultural configuration to which they opposed themselves early in their research and clinical careers. Through their shared project to biologize psychiatry, they gradually recoded mental illness, alcoholism, and the addictions as brain disorders. Their successful recoding entails significant rethinking of the role of self, brain, and society, and the displacement of psychiatry.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.