Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Call for Papers: Post-Traumatic Cultures Since the Great War (Copenhagen)



University of Copenhagen

22.05.2013-24.05.2013, Copenhagen, Denmark

Deadline: 21.01.2013

This cross-disciplinary conference focusses on genres of post-traumatic stress as identified and studied in military and civilian psychology, social and cultural history, film studies as well as literary and art criticism. Post-trauma’s elusive, psycho-social, inter-relational complexity requires such an interdisciplinary approach to place the after-effects of recent conflicts, for instance in Iraq and Afghanistan, within the complex narratives of war-related stress from 1914 onwards. Body, mind and emotion inflected by time and locality should be explored together with the interconnected histories of individual (combat) and collective (civilian) aftershock.

The organizers hope to compare varieties of post-traumatic stress as well as its expressions across societies and cultures in film, literature or visual arts. The interactions between returnees and the traumatized society which they re-enter creates communal, political and media conceptualizations that deserve more extensive study. While military psychology research on returnees thrives, other areas, for instance the dysfunction of post-war family relations, await more comprehensive examination.

To create a forum for exchange and cooperation across the human, social and medical sciences the organisers seek contributions willing to engage with other disciplines. Scholars interested in addressing the inter-connectedness of individual and collective mentalities – for example, in families, medical and political policy, representations of post-trauma, and conflicts over memories of trauma – are welcome to submit proposals for a paper or a panel. Contributors are invited to identify common themes for future cross-disciplinary study that will enable comparison and contrast between post-war nation states, communities and individuals. The organizers intend to establish a network for further research.

Keynote speakers

– Professor Jay Winter, Department of History, Yale University

– Dr Mette Bertelsen, Danish Veteran Centre, Copenhagen Denmark

– Professor Michael Roper, Department of Sociology, University of Essex

– Professor Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London and Director, Kings Centre for Military Health Research Institute of Psychiatry

– Dr Sophie Delaporte, Faculty of Philosophy and Human and Social Sciences, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens

– Dr. Raya Morag, Department of Communication & Journalism, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem

– Professor Allan Young, Department of Social Studies of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal

Submission guidelines: Panels and papers The organizers encourage contributors to propose their own cross-disciplinary/ comparative panels. Apart from suggested panels, there will be panels formed by the organizing committee: individual presenters will be grouped according to topic rather than academic discipline. Such panels will be led by nominated Chairs. The organizing committee kindly asks contributors to accept nominations.

Each Chair will coordinate the exchange of papers among the panellists at least a month before the conference to inspire responses and facilitate discussion during the conference. Papers should be up to 2000 words. Panels will last 90 minutes – each panellist will have no more than 20 minutes to present their main points; the remaining time should be devoted to discussion moderated by the Chair, who will also incorporate questions from the audience.

Contributors are invited to submit an abstract (up to 300 words) accompanied by six keywords. The abstracts should indicate affinities with other themes and disciplines in order to suggest recommendations for the organization of panels.

Contributors who want to propose panels are asked to send in a panel title, a brief description (300 words) of its themes and all the abstracts.

Please see the conference website for further information:

Deadline for submissions: January 21, 2013

All enquiries and submissions should be sent to

The program will be announced in January – February 2013.

Les Jeudis de la B.I.U.M.


Salle de lecture de la BIUM (© Wikipedia)

Programme des séances 2012-2013

Le rendez-vous est fixé, à 14 heures 45, au pied au pied de la statue La Nature se dévoilant devant la Science, en bas de l’escalier menant à la bibliothèque de l’École de Médecine (Bibliothèque Inter-Universitaire de Santé):

12, rue de l’École de Médecine – 75006 PARIS

Pour tout renseignement :

8 novembre 2012

Présentation du programme de l’année. Actualités.

L’affaire Yves Bertherat – Stanilas Capitolin (1967)

6 décembre 2012

Thérapeutiques physiques et biologiques. Hasard et sérendipité

3 janvier 2013

Une épidémie hystéro-démonopathique en Savoie sous le Second Empire : Les possédées de Morzine (Haute-Savoie)

7 février 2013

Le Traitement moral de la lypémanie

7 mars 2013

Les premières femmes médecins en psychiatrie

4 avril 2013

Les psychiatres et l’Académie de médecine

2 mai 2013

Le haschich

6 juin 2013

Séance délocalisée à la Bibliothèque médicale de Maison-Blanche, 18 rue Rémy de Gourmont 75019 Paris


Book Review – Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Sonu Shamdasani, The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis (Cambridge Univ. Press 2012)

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Sonu Shamdasani, The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis (Cambridge Univ. Press 2012)

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Making Minds and Madness: From Hysteria to Depression (Cambridge Univ. Press 2009)


By Simon Taylor

Beginning with the French publication of The Freudian Subject in 1982, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen has established himself as one of this generation’s foremost historians of psychoanalysis. Strongly influenced by the intellectual atmosphere of late-1970s France – including the thought of his teachers Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy – his work is known for its dense theoretical expositions, close readings, and forensic attention to detail. It has also, from the beginning, been characterized by a relentless and penetrating critique of Freud and the psychoanalytic endeavour as a whole; as early as The Freudian Subject, Borch-Jacobsen declared that, “All this (psychoanalysis, in short) was nothing but a great egoistic dream” bolstered not only by Freud himself, but also by “the throng of parricidal listeners and readers.” (239) He has, if anything, become more strident in his criticism since then, most notably in his work on hypnosis and his deconstruction of the “first analysis,” Remembering Anna O.: A Century of Mystification. Taken together, the two works under review – The Freud Files, co-written by the equally prominent Jung scholar Sonu Shamdasani, and a collection of essays dating from 1994-2008 entitled Making Minds and Madness – constitute something approaching Borch-Jacobsen’s definitive statement on Freud and his legacy.


The Freud Files takes the form of a full-frontal assault on what the authors, following the example of Henri Ellenberger and Frank Sulloway, refer to as the “Freudian legend.” The legend, at least as Borch-Jacobsen and Shamdasani conceive it, consists of two separate elements: the myth of Freud’s self-analysis and what they refer to as the “immaculate conception” of psychoanalysis. Combined, these myths constitute nothing less than a complete rewriting of the historical record, a sleight of hand that subsequent generations of analysts, historians, and the public at large have been complicit in perpetrating. In tandem with the sequestering of the Sigmund Freud Archives – a cache of material protected by an extraordinary set of restrictions engineered, according to the authors, to ensure that the true record of the birth of psychoanalysis would remain off-limits to all but the faithful “guardians” (28) of Freud’s legacy and justified by the spurious demands of patient confidentiality – these myths have for many decades deliberately placed the Freudian legend beyond the scrutiny of historians. “For a discipline concerned with the past,” the authors note, “psychoanalysis is strangely allergic to its own history.” (32)

Much of The Freud Files is devoted to undermining the myths that bolster the legend. Let us take them in turn, beginning with the immaculate conception. Although virtually every aspect of Freud’s theory that we take to be distinctively psychoanalytic had been formulated by his predecessors or contemporaries – from Schopenhauer’s adumbration of repression and the sexology of Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis to Hartmann’s “philosophy of the unconscious” and Breuer and Anna O.’s development of the “talking cure” – Freud and his followers first argued, and then simply affirmed again and again, that these sources had played no role in the development of psychoanalysis. Indeed, by his own account, it was not until “very late in [his] life” that Freud even read Schopenhauer and Nietzsche (106). Alfred Tauber has recently demonstrated the extent to which Freud’s professions of philosophical ignorance were a fabrication, and Borch-Jacobsen and Shamdasani are unequivocal in their assessment of Freud’s claims to “theoretical virginity”: the history that Freud so carefully constructed is nothing more than “a fable, a scientific fairytale” designed to “establish [his] autocratic political authority through affirming the absolute originality of the theory.” (106-7)

Another crucial aspect of Freud’s attempt to affirm “exclusive rights over his creation” (106) were his claims that 1) he had carried out a successful self-analysis; and 2) that this self-analysis could not – in either a technical or a moral sense – be replicated by anyone else. Freud used the first claim – the example of his self-analysis, where analysis entailed not merely observing but actively curing oneself, as Freud claimed to have done – to insist that all psychoanalysts submit to their own analysis as a prerequisite of professional development; he used the second claim to insist that such analyses could only be carried out by an external authority. As the “primal analyst,” (38) this left Freud in an incredibly powerful position, especially in the initial years of psychoanalysis: as the only authority capable of dispensing analysis, Freud established himself as the profession’s gatekeeper.

In one stroke, Freud had cemented his own position at the top of the psychoanalytic hierarchy and delegitimized the authority of his rivals. He had, furthermore, simultaneously insulated himself from any attempts at being analysed by others – which would both call into question Freud’s own omniscience and strengthen the hand of his rivals – and reserved for himself a monopoly on diagnosing the (alleged) psychopathologies of others, a power that Freud and his followers made liberal use of in their disputes with Adler, Rank, Jung, et al. It is important to understand that Borch-Jacobsen and Shamdasani’s point here is epistemological as well as institutional: “Freud’s self-analysis,” they write, “became the central pillar of psychoanalytic theory. Without it, psychoanalysis would collapse into a chaos of rival interpretations, with no means to adjudicate between them.” (52) Unsurprisingly, however, the authors conclude that what they term Freud’s “heroic self-analysis” “never took place.” (54)

It is not so much that Borch-Jacobsen and Shamdasani doubt that self-analysis is possible, as they doubt that analysis of any kind is possible. Freud’s self-analysis, like all psychoanalytic case studies, was nothing more than a “retrospective construction.” (54) Indeed, this is the most that psychoanalysis can ever hope for. As Borch-Jacobsen argues in an essayentitled “Is Psychoanalysis a Fairy-Tale?” – the answer, it may not surprise you to learn, is a resounding yes – psychoanalytic case-studies are nothing more than “historical novels or romanticized biographies” (Making Minds, 151) in the vein of Zweig or Balzac, what the novelist Paul Auster once referred to as “the anecdote as a form of knowledge.” To use the slightly clumsy neologism coined by Borch-Jacobsen and Shamdasani, these case studies represent “interprefactions,” (144-45) a reificatory process through which “Freud created facts with words.” (Making Minds, ix)

The debunking of Freud’s case-studies, beginning with his own, is the most convincing section of The Freud Files: especially impressive is the manner in which Borch-Jacobsen and Shamdasani complement their epistemological critique with a highly controlled and precise use of archival material. There are times, however, when the sheer volume of archival and primary source material threatens to overwhelm and even undermine the argument. The authors have employed what they describe as a “polyphonic” approach to quotation, which in practice entails “deliberately cho[osing] to cite excerpts in extenso, letting the historical actors speak in their own voices.” (28)

Although the logic behind this method is sound – the material, lying behind the lock and key of the Freud archives, was so difficult to access and offers such a radically different interpretation of the origins of psychoanalysis that only direct and extensive quotation can do it justice – this maximalist approach can at times lend The Freud Files the appearance of a Renaissance commonplace book. Furthermore, and contrary to the apparent expectations of the authors, many of the passages quoted do not speak for themselves. Perhaps more damagingly, the sheer volume of critical material produced to dismantle Freud’s claims has the paradoxical effect of serving to, if not necessarily justify, then certainly explicate, the defensive and revisionary strategies of Freud and his disciples: faced with overwhelming hostility (painstakingly catalogued by Borch-Jacobsen and Shamdasani) from the established medical and psychiatric authorities, Freud’s efforts to carve out a position of professional security and prestige, and his subsequent policing of those boundaries, come across as unsurprising, even understandable.

More troublingly still, the argument of The Freud Files at times resembles little more than a sustained ad hominem attack on the integrity and character of Freud and his followers. No doubt Borch-Jacobsen and Shamdasani would counter that in a discipline as intimately bound up with the personality of its founder as psychoanalysis – a body of knowledge that, after all, regards the introspective reflections of its progenitor as both foundational and paradigmatic – such a strategy is not only fair game but inescapable. The problem with this line of argument is that it presupposes that psychoanalysis is nothing more than a series of case studies and personal anecdotes. It is, however, equally plausible to argue that psychoanalysis is nothing less than the series of extraordinary metapsychological papers, bookended by “Formulations Regarding the Two Principles in Mental Functioning” and “Mourning and Melancholia,” that Freud published between, roughly, 1911-1917.

The total omission of Freud’s metapsychology is especially problematic given the severity of the authors’ conclusions: psychoanalysis, they declare, is “Nothing – or nearly nothing […]: it is a ‘machine’, a ‘whatsit’, a ‘thingumajig’ which can serve to designate anything, an empty theory in which one can cram whatever one likes.” (303) More striking still are their claims about the implications for the contemporary practice of psychoanalysis: “one could say that psychoanalysis, in a certain sense, no longer exists – or rather, never did.” (307). Borch-Jacobsen reaches similar conclusions in a number of essays contained within Making Minds, including the aforementioned “Fairy-Tale” and a piece entitled “Interprefactions: Freud’s Legendary Science” (co-written with Shamdasani) that informs much of the methodology of The Freud Files, from which we learn that “what Freud actually did […] was to form a self-confirming apparatus which could produce, suggest evidence for whatever theory one liked.” (Making Minds, 171). In “Simulating the Unconscious” Borch-Jacobsen concludes that “there is no ‘psychic reality’ to discover or to describe in the subject, only realities to produce and to negotiate with him.” (Making Minds, 136).

These are huge claims, as befits a book of the scope, ambition, and prodigious scholarship of The Freud Files. For, despite the criticisms above, the monograph and essay collection under review constitute a formidable and, for the most part, highly persuasive critique of Freud and his legacy; indeed, this review can only hint at the depth of argumentation and rich analysis contained within their pages. Nevertheless, it is hard to shake the feeling that Borch-Jacobsen’s dismantling of the psychoanalytic edifice is perhaps a little too thorough, even as its implications remain underdeveloped. Assuming that we accept the logic of his criticisms, what are we left with? What is the mind? What is mental illness beyond constructivism? Nothing? Something? There are a number of contemporary philosophers, neurologists, and psychologists who offer potential answers to these questions, but Borch-Jacobsen isn’t one of them. As an historian, perhaps he feels justified in not having to engage with such questions. Equally, however, as an historian of psychoanalysis he has, or ought to have, a vested interest in offering alternative paths for investigation. After all, if, as Borch-Jacobsen argues in the methodological essay that opens Making Minds, mental illness is nothing more than a particularly complex and fluid social construct – an open dialogue between analyst, patient, and society at large – what more is there to say on the subject? In order to answer what then becomes the truly pressing question – why does a given form or manifestation of “illness” establish itself as the predominant mode of mental expression in a particular time and place? – we must surely seek an answer beyond the confines of the history of the psyences. We must become cultural historians: that is the true implication of a history that denies the existence of the object it studies.


Simon Taylor is a graduate student in the Department of History at Columbia University. He specializes in modern European intellectual history, particularly the history of philosophy and the psyences. He is writing his dissertation on the medicalization of the concept of anxiety. Simon previously reviewed Alfred Tauber’s Freud, The Reluctant Philosopher for h-madness.

Reconstructing What Happened to Phineas Gage

Christian Jarrett, editor/writer over at the informative and entertaining British Psychological Society Research Digest, has just posted a piece on the latest attempt by researchers to reconstruct what happened to Phineas Gage.  Gage, of course, is one of the most famous neurology patients in history.  In 1848, due to an explosion, a large iron rod went through his face and brain, out the top of his head.  Amazingly, Gage survived, living until 1860.  Jarrett looks at a new study using imaging data:

Now Gage’s skull has been analysed yet again. A team of experts, led by John Van Horn, based at the University of California and Harvard Medical School, has used diffusion imaging data, together with anatomical MRI, to try to find out how Gage’s injury affected the connective tissues of his brain. As they explain: ‘while many authors have focused on the gross damage done by the iron to Gage’s frontal cortical grey matter, little consideration has been given to the degree of damage to and destruction of major connections between discretely affected regions and the rest of his brain.’

The Filedrawer Problem: A Resource

Something brought to our attention by the Cheiron Forum (Cheiron = The International society for the History of the Behavioral & Social Sciences) –

The Open Science Framework – an open collaboration of scientists “to increase the alignment between scientific values and scientific practices” – recently announced its “Reproducibility Project,” a collaboration intended to estimate the reproducibility of a sample of studies from the psychological sciences.  You can read about this project here.

A related resource which may interest h-madness readers is PsychFileDrawer, an archive of replication attempts in experimental psychology.  The site explains its archive and the famous “file drawer problem” this way:

The “file drawer problem” (a term coined in 1979 by Robert Rosenthal, a member of our Advisory Board) refers to the bias introduced into the scientific literature by selective publication–chiefly by a tendency to publish positive results but not to publish negative or nonconfirmatory results. Awareness and concern about the file drawer problem seem to be growing explosively at the current time (early 2012). The pages below provide a fairly comprehensive list of recent discussions of this problem organized into different categories of publications–ranging from popular articles about the extent of the problem in many fields, to technical articles asking how failures to reject the null hypothesis should be analyzed and presented.

The Wolf Man – Graphic Freud

The Guardian contains an article about writer Richard Appignanesi and artist Slawa Harasymowicz’s latest project, a graphic novel entitled The Wolf Man, inspired by Freud’s famous case study.

The accompanying video, featuring interviews with Appignanesi and Harasymowicz, but also psychoanalyst and historian Daniel Pick as well as publisher Emma Hayley, contains various images from the graphic novel.

To access the article and video, click here.

Book review – Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz. Wild Unrest: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Making of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” (Oxford 2010)

By Daisy Dominguez

In Wild Unrest: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Making of “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz presents a detailed reading of the bountiful diaries, journals, and correspondence of Gilman and those close to her leading up to the publication of her famous short story. Her papers reveal that during her courtship and marriage to her first husband, Charles Walter Stetson, she sought to reconcile both her conflicting desires to be in a relationship and to remain independent with Stetson’s more traditional views regarding women in marriage. By also analyzing Gilman’s reading habits to show how they shaped her social and political views, Horowitz demonstrates that they informed this internal struggle. A reader of Popular Science Monthly, Gilman picked up the deterministic philosophy of Herbert Spencer but also William B. Carpenter’s ideas on the importance of the will. Surprisingly, Horowitz also reveals that in her early twenties, Charlotte was uninformed about the women’s rights movement and lacked personal knowledge of role models for being an independent married woman. It wasn’t until 1886-1887 that she became immersed in the feminist Woman’s Journal.

Horowitz’s main argument is that despite her claim, Gilman did not write the “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a critique of the one-month “rest cure” she was prescribed by the famous Dr. Weir Mitchell in 1887. The rest cure consisted of a large amount of bed rest, seclusion, massages, electrotherapy, and a diet of increased fat. In contrast to the active “camp cure” prescribed for men who suffered from neurasthenia, the rest cure was symbolic of the circumscription of women in general. (Interestingly, by the time Gilman was treated, Mitchell had altered his views to allow for more physical activity, which explains his recommendation that she follow through on her interest in working at a gymnasium upon returning home.[1]) Twenty-six years after her stay with Mitchell, in a 1913 article in her periodical Forerunner, Gilman wrote that the “best result” of her short story was its influence on Mitchell, whom she had sent a copy. “Many years later,” she noted, “I was told that the great specialist had admitted to friends of his that he had altered his treatment of neurasthenia since reading ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.”[2] Horowitz argues that while the rest cure was a significant event in Gilman’s life, the short story told more about Gilman’s feelings toward Stetson and the institution of marriage than how she felt about Mitchell’s treatment.

Noting that, “History has portrayed the reasoning Charlotte with the strong will as the true Charlotte,”[3] Horowitz does an admirable job of untangling the accepted truth from the more personal one detailed in years of correspondence and journal and diary entries. My only question surrounds the lack of documentation during a crucial time: Gilman stopped writing in her journal from 1887, the same year when she went to Mitchell and around the same time when she became a more avid reader of Women’s Journal, and 1890, when The Yellow Wallpaper was written. I would have been interested in some speculation about how Gilman’s deeper immersion in the suffragist publication and women’s issues might have begun to inform her writings and how she perceived them. Did it help solidify, in the remove of years, what she saw as the short story’s purpose? As it stands, Horowitz could not do anything about this gap and it does not, in the end, negate her well-researched and compelling argument. Wild Unrest would be a good read for anyone interested in knowing Gilman’s early years and influences.

Daisy Dominguez is an assistant professor at the City College of New York, CUNY.

[1] Horowitz, Wild Unrest, 138.

[2]Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’,” in The Captive Imagination: A Casebook on The Yellow Wallpaper, ed. Catherine Golden (New York: The Feminist Press, 1992), 51-53.

[3] Horowitz, Wild Unrest, 47.

%d bloggers like this: