The Disruption of Health: Shaffer, Foucault and 'the Normal'

Journal of Medical Humanities 20 (4):231-245 (1999)
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In this article the aurhtor explores the intimate connection between the concepts of ‘health’ and ‘normality’ in the fields of medicine and mental health by discerning Foucauldian themes in Peter Shaffer’s critically acclaimed drama Equus. Shaffer’s scrutiny of the mental health field pinpoints the same issue as Foucault does in his many works on medicine and psychiatry, namely, that operating behind any concept of ‘health’ in these fields is nothing other than the notion of ‘normality.’ By looking not only to the acumen of Foucault’s research and critique, but also to the depiction of Foucauldian themes in Shaffer’s compelling dramatic work, this article is able to explore the implications of the relation between ‘health’ and ‘normality’ in concrete, human terms. In Equus, the effects of psychiatric discourse are written all over the face of a disturbed, young teenager, a fact which reminds us that the human beings subjected to the mental health care profession are all too real, precariously delicate, suffering individuals.



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Theodore George
Texas A&M University

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References found in this work

Truth and Power (1977).Michel Foucault - 2007 - In Craig J. Calhoun (ed.), Contemporary sociological theory. Malden, MA: Blackwell. pp. 201--208.
Concepts of health and disease: interdisciplinary perspectives.Arthur L. Caplan, Hugo Tristram Engelhardt & James J. McCartney (eds.) - 1981 - Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, Advanced Book Program/World Science Division.
Foucault's strategy: Knowledge, power, and the specificity of truth.Mary C. Rawlinson - 1987 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 12 (4):371-395.

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