Research Seminar, Dr Sheila Dickson: ‘The Development of Psychiatry as Medical Specialism in the Enlightenment Period’, Glasgow

Dr Sheila Dickson, SMLC, University of Glasgow

‘The development of Psychiatry as Medical Specialism in the Enlightenment period: Rotation Therapy for Maniacs, Melancholics and Idiots’

All are warmly invited to the next School of Modern Languages and Cultures Research Seminar on Wednesday 2nd December at 1pm in Room 317 of the Hetherington Building. Refreshments available.

Psychiatry as a medical specialism has had PR issues ever since its emergence at the end of the 18th century. Pioneering professional optimism inspired therapeutic experimentation to re-establish ordered, rational harmony in mind and body of the afflicted, and some mad doctors made grand claims that rotation therapy could calm maniacs, revive melancholics, and even provide light relief to idiots. In spite of hundreds of successful case history reports, however, public opinion could only see it as torture no less barbaric than the chains and whips it was supposed to replace. Medical and literary case histories from the two sides of this debate in Great Britain and Germany will be compared as an illustration of the historical and cultural embeddedness of the interpretation of madness.

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