New Issue of Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte

coverThe latest issue of Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte contains several articles that may interest the readers of h-madness.

Einleitung: Bühnen des Wahnsinns. Inszenierungen psychischer Alterität by Alexander Friedland, Rainer Herrn, Johannes Kassar and Sophie Ledebur


Der demonstrierte Wahnsinn – Die Klinik als Bühne by Rainer Herrn and Alexander Friedland

Performing Madness: The Clinic as Stage. In the second half of the nineteenth century, clinical demonstrations became the dominant teaching method in psychiatry, playing a key role in medical-professional disputes, as well. This paper traces this widely used though historiographically neglected practice of knowledge implementation and mediation, as demonstrated in the psychiatric clinic of the Berlin Charité (Psychiatrische und Nervenklinik der Berliner Charité) from 1881 to 1927. Documentation of this practice, found within individual medical records, forms the basis of this research. The concept of ‘theatricality’ assists in uncovering the dramatic quality of the clinical demonstration: Psychiatric knowledge was not simply disseminated through such a practice; rather, such knowledge was first performatively created through the very logic of its presentation of exemplary patient histories, as well as through the examination and diagnostic positioning of its patients. The ‘success’ of such presentations depended on many variables, related to staff, time, place, and other situational factors. These include the presence of appropriate lecture halls, the availability and calculated selection of patients, and the employment of specific performative techniques by doctors for the sake of producing desired results. As one effect, clinical demonstrations also encouraged patients to both learn and rehearse behavior considered relevant to the particular diagnosis that was to be demonstrated.

„Simulanten des Irrsinns auf dem Vortragspult“: Dada, Krieg und Psychiatrie, eine ‚Aktive Traumadynamik‘ by Gabriele Dietze

“Simulanten des Irrsinns auf dem Vortragspult”: Dada, War and Psychiatry – ‘Active Dynamics of Trauma’. This paper relates stage performances of dada artists to war neurosis and shell shock as sociocultural phenomena. The leitmotif of this investigation is the notion of simulation, as dada artists were referred to as malingerers (simulators) of madness by the press at the time. I hypothesize that the performers imitate/simulate with drums, shouting and ‘bruitist’ sound poems, the noises of war, staging themselves as war neurotics in a kind of shocking clinical demonstration. Both discourses intersect in the fact that many dadaists try to dodge the draft by simulating madness. The scandalizing anti-art of dada will be understood as contagious anti-pedagogy, trying to vaccinate against the madness of the era.

„[…] mein Recht muss mir werden!“ Hermann Bahrs Tragikomödie Der Querulant (1914) by Rupert Gaderer

“[…] mein Recht muss mir werden!” Hermann Bahr’s Tragicomedy­ Der Querulant­ (1914). At the end of the eighteenth century, people who became notorious for their excessive engagement in legal proceedings started being labeled as “querulents” or “paranoid litigants”. The term “querulents” first appeared in the General Order of the Court for the Prussian States (Allgemeine Gerichtsordnung für die Preußischen Staaten) from July 6, 1793. From there on, the spectrum of juridical measures undertaken against the so-labeled litigators included classifying these persons as ineligible for legal action and psychiatric hospitalization. The paper discusses to what extent Hermann Bahr rearranges psychiatric and legal knowledge about this special type of the complainer in his tragicomedy Der Querulant, premiered in 1914. This concerns, first, the theatricality of the body and speech, secondly, the use of cultural techniques of writing and, thirdly, conflicting notions of justice. Therefore, the paper analyzes the aesthetic function of querulous behavior in the dramatic structure of the play from the point of view of both media theory and literary theory.

Ein Blick in die Tiefe der Seele: Hypnose im Kultur- und Lehrfilm (1920–1936) by Sophie Ledebur

Gazing into the Depths of the Soul: Hypnotism in Documentary and Instructional Film (1920–1936). Although part of the medical fold since the 1870s, hypnosis was long relegated to the margins, recognised and used by only a relatively small group of medical professionals. In the decades around 1900 hypnotic techniques were monopolised as a form of medical treatment through a long and in no way linear process. Hypnosis of laymen was vehemently opposed, however, denounced as being far too dangerous. And yet, medical participation in the aura of spectacular intervention into the human psyche garnered support. The medium of both documentary and instructional film served an important function in this regard, conveying popular interest in acknowledging hypnosis as a scientific method. On the basis of four medically accredited films on hypnosis from 1920 to 1936, this paper attempts to investigate how medical experts and these genres, as part of their effort to claim hypnosis from the realm of public spectacle and parapsychological experimentation, worked to stabilise hypnosis as a purified form of medical and psychiatric practice.

Wahnsinnige Bilder – Zu einer medialen Wissensgeschichte des Psychischen um 1900 by Dr. Veronika Rall. The abstract reads:

Mental Images: Towards a Media History of the Psyche around 1900. Presupposing that visual practices are inherent to the social constitution of knowledge, this article suggests juxtaposing photographs and films produced in a psychiatric environment to popular films run in theaters around 1900, thus identifying cinema’s particular “Denkstil” (Fleck). Rejecting science’s dominating paradigm of visual objectivity (Daston/Galison), the visual apparatus [dispositif] of early cinema facilitates subjective experience of unreason and irrationality and thus initiates a different epistemological approach to knowledge as self-knowledge of a modern, self-reflexive subject. This is particularly evident in early cinema’s depiction of the psyche, which does not solely focus on the physical manifestation of the ‘mad’, ‘insane’ body, but also visualizes the subject’s inner life: technical means like montage, multiple exposure or stop motion can be employed to illustrate subjective visions, fantasies or dreams. Thus, the invisible mind becomes visible as the “unthinkable within thinking” (Deleuze), while the subject is invited to participate in cinema’s “gay science” (Nietzsche).

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