The June 2016 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Articles in this issue explore psychiatric semiology, the German Research Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, madness in novelist Muriel Spark’s work, LSD as treatment in Denmark, the DSM and learning disabilities, Joseph Mason’s madhouse, and the work of Max Scheler. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The emergence of psychiatric semiology during the Age of Revolution: evolving concepts of ‘normal’ and ‘pathological’,” by Diego Enrique Londoño and Professor Tom Dening. The abstract reads,
This article addresses some important questions in psychiatric semiology. The concept of a sign is crucial in psychiatry. How do signs emerge, and what gives them validity and legitimacy? What are the boundaries of ‘normal’ and ‘pathological’ behaviour and mental experiences? To address these issues, we analyse the characteristics and rules that govern semiological signs and clinical elements. We examine ‘normality’ from the perspective of Georges Canguilehm and compare the differences of ‘normal’ in physiology and psychiatry. We then examine the history and the philosophical, linguistic and medical-psychiatric origins of semiology during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (the Age of Revolution). The field of rhetoric and oratory has emphasized the importance of passions, emotions and language as applied to signs of madness. Another perspective on semiology, provided by Michel Foucault, lays stress on the concept of ‘instinct’ and the axis of voluntary-involuntary behaviour. Finally, we analyse how statistics and eugenics have played an important role in our current conceptualization of the norm and therefore the scientific discourse behind the established clinical signs.
“Psychiatric governance, völkisch corporatism, and the German Research Institute of Psychiatry in Munich (1912–26). Part 2,” by Eric J Engstrom, Wolfgang Burgmair, and Matthias M Weber. The abstract reads, Continue reading New History of Psychiatry: LSD, Madhouses, Psychiatric Semiology…
Scholarship on the history of psychology in Denmark has a new addition: Edgar Rubin and Psychology in Denmark. The volume is the work of Jörgen L. Pind, Professor of Psychology at the University of Iceland. Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin is perhaps best known today to students of psychology through his figure-ground illusion, Rubin’s vase (right).
As described on the publisher’s website,
Edgar Rubin and Psychology in Denmark tours a tumultuous century of history, politics, culture, and thought as reflected in the intellectual life of Denmark following the Golden Age of Kierkegaard and H. C. Andersen. Rubin’s scholarly journey takes him from the debate over the scientific study of “the soul” to the maturation of perceptual psychology, providing both human context for our modern understanding of consciousness and a timeline for the recognition of psychology as science. Besides his revolutionary discoveries in visual perception, less-known aspects of his work are explored, such as his observations on taste and the perception of speech, as is his relationship–and reluctant contribution–to Gestalt theory. In these pages, Rubin is portrayed as a thinker simultaneously of his time and place and distinctly universal and modern.
More detailed information about this volume can be found here.
BBC Radio 4 has just aired an episode on the history of mental illness. The episode, Mad Houses, explores three museums of madness in Europe in anticipation of the establishment of a museum of mental illness at Bedlam Hospital in the coming years.
As described on Radio 4’s website,
Ken Arnold explores how three European countries variously tell the history of mental illness. What do museums of madness tell us about who we were and who we are? Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes at the Wellcome Trust, visits three of Europe’s old ‘mad houses’ that are now museums in Aarhus in Denmark, Haarlem in the Netherlands and Ghent in Belgium. Two of these institutions still function as psychiatric hospitals. Each has unusual, beautiful and terrifying objects on show ranging from straight-jackets to lobotomy tools, and also collections of ‘outsider art’, but each is also strikingly successful at evoking for their visitors different (and sometimes wildly different) views of madness – strange, worrisome, extreme mental states.
Ranging from a pitch-dark solitary confinement cell to the brightly coloured papier-mache dolls made by long term inmates, from the era of shackles to the era of the talking cure, the history of Europe’s reaction to the madness in its midst as shown by these museums is long and still shifting. Britain doesn’t yet have a national museum of mental illness or psychiatry. Bedlam Hospital in London will take on this role in years to come. What might we learn from the mad houses of Europe?
The episode can be heard online here.