New HoP: Motivated Historiography, Child Prodigies, and More

The August 2021 issue of History of Psychology is now available. The issue includes a special section on reassessing the history of German critical psychology and motivated historiography, as well as additional articles on the film the Snake Pit, child prodigies in Paris, and a proposed new class: the psychologesque. A further review article looks at recent scholarship on William James. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

Special Section: Reassessing the History of German Critical Psychology

Beyond narratives: German critical psychology revisited,” Schönpflug, Wolfgang. Abstract:

In 2 articles, this journal has presented critical psychology (CP), which emerged in Germany during the 1980s, as an exemplary paradigm that committed itself to both scientific and political objectives and became a victim of Cold-War confrontations. The presentation was mainly based on narratives and writings circulating within CP itself. I have reexamined the case using archival materials and supplementary literary sources. This allows for a more complete and balanced account of postwar psychology and the contemporary political situation in general. In particular, I argue against Teo’s hypothesis that CP was an indigenous paradigm that had to assert itself against American psychology. Marxism, constructivism, and subject orientation are analyzed as principal components of CP, and a claim for sole representation is identified as a predominant reason for the isolation of CP within German psychology. Finally, I briefly report on CP following the collapse of Soviet communism and comment on the present historicization of CP.

Motivated historiography: Comments on Wolfgang Schönpflug’s reappraisal of German critical psychology,” Teo, Thomas; Jovanovi?, Gordana; Dege, Martin. Abstract: 

Introducing the concept of motivated historiography, we seek to answer the question of what constitutes a good history of psychology and of German Critical Psychology (CP) in particular. It is suggested that one needs to include questions about the purpose of historiography, the background and horizon of the historiographer, the quality and originality of the thesis, the quality of the material, selected and omitted, and the quality of interpretations. We submit that the article by Schönpflug (2021) does not accomplish a realistic account of CP. We conclude that the two original main theses in the article on links of CP to communism and Nazism reflect motivated historiography and are remnants of political and cultural struggles in Germany in the 1970s. We suggest that more important than just denouncing an innovative program is to do justice to the sociopolitical, academic, and theoretical entanglements, the historical contributions and the intellectual legacies of CP, while also accounting for shortcomings.

Self-report on motivation,” Schönpflug, Wolfgang. Abstract:

Teo et al. (2021, p. 217) have asked me “to locate [myself] epistemologically and politically and identify [my] position in…institutional and departmental struggles…to allow a reader to contextualize [my] reconstructions.” Therefore, I provide information on my political and scientific orientation, my position at the Free University of Berlin, and my relationship to Klaus Holzkamp.

Regular Articles

The Snake Pit: Mixing Marx with Freud in Hollywood,” Harris, Ben. Abstract:

In 1948, the motion picture The Snake Pit was released to popular and critical acclaim. Directed by Anatole Litvak, the film told of the mental illness and recovery of one patient, who survived overcrowding and understaffing and was treated by a neo-Freudian psychiatrist known as Dr. Kik. It was based on a novel of the same title by Mary Jane Ward, who had been treated at Rockland State Hospital in New York. Building upon exposés of horrid hospital conditions in the press, The Snake Pit helped motivate reforms in the treatment of the mentally ill. Via unpublished correspondence and drafts of the film’s screenplay, this article explores the populist and antifascist themes in The Snake Pit, which came from the director, screenwriters, and the politics of the immediate post-WWII era. It also describes the case history of Mary Jane Ward and her treatment by Gerard Chrzanowski, the real “Dr. Kik.”

Child prodigies in Paris in the belle époque: Between child stars and psychological subjects,” Graus, Andrea. Abstract:

This article considers the double role of child prodigies as child stars and psychological subjects in Paris in the Belle Époque. I argue that the celebrity status of child prodigies during this time contributed to their transformation into objects of scientific curiosity. The notions of innate talent and natural-born genius contributed heavily to stories of child prodigies within the public sphere; these stories also circulated in psychological accounts of such children. To illustrate this, I examine the case of Pepito Arriola, the so-called Spanish Mozart, in more detail. This musical prodigy toured Europe and America during the early 20th century, and when he was 3- and one-half years old, Charles Richet presented him at the Fourth International Psychology Congress (1900) in Paris. Arriola became the first virtuoso to be submitted to psychological examination, and he was subsequently examined in Berlin by the psychologist Carl Stumpf. This closer look at Pepito Arriola’s case clarifies how popular culture and scientific research interacted in the making of a prodigy.

Middle class sprawl: Locating the psychologesque in the history of psychology,” Devonis, David C. Abstract: 

To add to the system of classes already present in the recent historiography of psychology, a new and broader class is proposed, the psychologesque. This class includes, along with a central core of master’s- and PhD-level psychologists, surrounding belts of cognate professionals in other fields who are, to a greater or lesser degree, tinged with psychology. Advantages to including this broad class, in some ways similar to the U.S. middle class, in the history of psychology are advanced.

Essay Review

Before and beyond dualism: Paul Croce and David Leary on William James,” Bordogna, Francesca. Abstract:

Reviews the books, “Young William James Thinking” by Paul Croce (2018) and “The Routledge Guidebook to James’s Principles of Psychology” by David E. Leary (2018). Paul Croce’s Young William James Thinking and David Leary’s The Routledge Guidebook to James’s Principles of Psychology reach important, at times convergent conclusions, though through very different approaches. Croce practices the kind of sympathetic hermeneutics that James wished had informed the reception of his pragmatism. A labor of love, Young William James zeroes in on the “center” of James’s “vision,” redrawing its contours. Leary, by contrast, proceeds through a razor-sharp analysis of James’s Principles of Psychology. He sees himself as tracing paths and itineraries, through which readers can explore James’s complex work. Croce’s book addresses a broad audience of people who are interested in William James and the James family, and who also desire to learn more about American culture and society in the second half of the 19th century. Leary’s study is aimed at a more specialized readership of historians of science, intellectual historians, psychologists, and philosophers, as well as graduate and undergraduate students. Through works like Leary’s and Croce’s readers can better understand the reasons why James’s thought came to function as a resource not only for neuroscientific, biological understandings of mind, self, and values, such as Antonio Damasio’s, but also for a humanistic “sciences of the human person,” such as Roberto Assagioli’s psychosynthesis and American humanistic psychology.

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.