New issue: History of Psychology

hist psychThe February 2011 issue of History of Psychology is out and includes, among others, and article by Donna Trembinski entitled “Comparing premodern melancholy/mania and modern trauma: An argument in favor of historical experiences of trauma”.

The abstract reads:

Historians and psychiatrists have repeatedly looked to both real and imagined individuals of the past, like Achilles and Samuel Pepys, and found evidence that they were suffering from symptoms of trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder. The assumptions that allow such historical “diagnoses” have, however, recently been called into question by philosophers such as Ian Hacking, anthropologists like Allan Young and psychiatrists such as Patrick Bracken. These scholars have all suggested in various ways that experiences of trauma could not have occurred until the diagnosis of trauma and its symptoms had been formalized and the language of trauma had been developed in the late 19th century. This article attempts to resolve this bifurcation of opinion on the universality of the mind and historical experiences of trauma in two ways. First, it argues for the necessity of applying modern categories of analysis to further present understandings of the past. Second, it considers discussions of “melancholia” and “mania” in premodern medical literature and argues that there are enough similarities between the causes and symptoms of these premodern disorders and modern trauma to suggest that experiences of trauma may not be wholly culturally bound to the modern world, as the above scholars have suggested. While melancholy or mania cannot simply be understood as premodern names for trauma, and it is not always correct to “diagnose” a premodern person who exhibits symptoms of these illnesses with trauma, such an assumption is not always ahistorical or incorrect either.

More information on this issue can be found at

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