A special issue of Medical History devoted to “Soul Catchers – A Material History of the Mind Sciences” is now available. The issue includes a number of articles – on drawing as an instrument, soul photography, and more – that may interest AHP readers.
Editorial: “Soul Catchers: The Material Culture of the Mind Sciences,” by Katja Guenther and Volker Hess.
“Brain Ways: Meynert, Bachelard and the Material Imagination of the Inner Life,” by Scott Phelps. The abstract reads,
The Austrian psychiatrist Theodor Meynert’s anatomical theories of the brain and nerves are laden with metaphorical imagery, ranging from the colonies of empire to the tentacles of jellyfish. This paper analyses among Meynert’s earliest works a different set of less obvious metaphors, namely, the fibres, threads, branches and paths used to elaborate the brain’s interior. I argue that these metaphors of material, or what the philosopher Gaston Bachelard called ‘material images’, helped Meynert not only to imaginatively extend the tracts of fibrous tissue inside the brain but to insinuate their function as pathways co-extensive with the mind. Above all, with reference to Bachelard’s study of the material imagination, I argue that Meynert helped entrench the historical intuition that the mind, whatever it was, consisted of some interiority – one which came to be increasingly articulated through the fibrous confines of the brain.
“Drawing as Instrument, Drawings as Evidence: Capturing Mental Processes with Pencil and Paper,” by Alicia Puglionesi. The abstract reads, Continue reading Medical History Special Issue on Material History of the Mind Sciences
On September 24 the University of Milano-Bicocca (Polo Historical Archive (PAST)), in collaboration with the Historical Archive of Italian Psychology (The Center ASPI), is hosting a seminar titled Fotografia e scienze della mente tra storia, rappresentazione e terapia (Photography and Mind Sciences History: Representation and Therapy).
The workshop will include talks on the role of photography in the works of Jean-Martin Charcot; the photo archive from Cesare Lombroso’s museum of criminal anthropology; the photographic story of 40 years at the Italian asylum Uliano Lucas; and the use of photo-art therapy as a means of investigation and treatment of mental disorders.
The meeting has been organized by Daniela Scala and will be held from 3:00 to 6:00 pm at Villa Di Breme Oven, Via Martinelli 23 in Cinisello Balsamo (MI).
Click here for the full program.
As a followup to our recent post about Miriam Posner‘s work on the lobotomy photographs of Walter Freeman, I would like to draw AHP‘s readers attention to a recent posting on Posner’s blog, Academitron. For anyone interested in learning more about the role of photography in the history of psychiatry/psychology, Posner has posted “Psychiatry, Photography, and Lobotomy: A Bibliography,” an extensive list of works on the subject.
You can find that list here, and Posner’s blog here.
Science and the Arts, a project of NPR’s Science Friday, has posted a slideshow of Dr. Walter Freeman‘s before and after photographs of lobotomy patients. The slideshow is based on the work of Miriam Posner, Mellon Postdoctoral Research Associate at Emory University, who also narrates the slideshow. Prosner recently completed her Yale University dissertation on Freeman and his lobotomy photographs. She argues that for Freeman the photographs served as medical evidence of the benefits of lobotomy and provided justification for his focus on external behavior rather than their mental states when evaluating surgical outcomes.
As Posner writes on her website,
Walter Freeman (1895 – 1972) was a neurologist who pioneered and popularized lobotomy. In this procedure, the brain’s frontal lobe is separated from the thalamus. The effects of lobotomy vary from patient to patient, but the procedure was designed to make aggressive mental patients less dangerous. Freeman thought that lobotomy had wider applications, and he administered lobotomies to patients suffering from depression and pain. All in all, Freeman performed more than 3,500 lobotomies, often as outpatient procedures…The neurologist was also an avid photographer, obsessively documenting his patients before and after their procedures. Freeman also made a series of films showing lobotomies and their effects. After he stopped performing lobotomies in the early 1960s, Freeman crossed the country in his van (nicknamed the Lobotomobile), tracking down former patients and snapping their photographs.
The full slideshow can be viewed here.
Thanks to Cathy Faye for bringing this to AHP‘s attention.
The History of the Human Sciences has just released its December issue online. Featured in the issue are articles on twin research, sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (pictured left) and biography as historical method, photography and biological vision, and the role of the environment in early American sociology.
In “Twin research, revisionism and metahistory,” Thomas Teo and Laura C. Ball, both of York University, explore the carefully managed presentation of the history of twin research. As is stated early on, the “article does not provide a history but is interested in the historiography, or, better, the historical accounts and reconstructions, of twin research, written by insiders” (p. 3). Teo and Ball look at how insiders selected pioneers in the field and what historical evidence has been privileged in constructing a history of twin research. The abstract to this article reads:
We understand metahistory as an approach that studies how histories within a particular discipline have been written and focus on insider scientists’ reconstructions of twin research. Using the concept of ethical-political affordances we suggest that such histories are based on a management of resources that prove to be beneficial for representing one’s own research traditions in a positive light. Instead of discussing information on the context and intellectual life of pioneers of the twin method, which include high-caliber eugenicists and Nazi ideologues, and on how the twin method has been used and abused, insider scientists’ accounts present twin research as neutral, objective and void of any kind of political connotations. Continue reading Twin Research, Biography as Method, and More