This essay is an attempt to plumb the conventions which exist at a specific historical moment in both the aesthetic and scientific spheres. I will assume the existence of a web of conventions within the world of the aesthetic—conventions which have elsewhere been admirably illustrated—but will depart from the norm by examining the synchronic existence of another series of conventions, those of medicine. I do not mean in any way to accord special status to medical conventions. Indeed, the world is (...) full of overlapping and intertwined systems of conventions, of which the medical and the aesthetic are but two. Medicine offers an especially interesting source of conventions since we do tend to give medical conventions special “scientific” status as opposed to the “subjective” status of the aesthetic conventions. But medical icons are no more “real” than “aesthetic” ones. Like aesthetic icons, medical icons may iconographic in that they represent these realities in a manner determined by the historical position of the observers, their relationship to their own time, and to the history of the conventions which they employ. Medicine uses its categories to structure an image of the diversity of mankind; it is as much at the mercy of the needs of any age to comprehend this infinite diversity as any other system which organizes our perception of the world. The power of medicine, at least in the nineteenth century, lies in the rise of the status of science. He conventions of medicine infiltrate other seemingly closed iconographic systems precisely because of this status. In examining the conventions of medicine employed in other areas, we must not forget this power.One excellent example of the conventions of human diversity captured in the iconography of the nineteenth century is the linkage of two seemingly unrelated female images—the icon of the Hottentot female and the icon of the prostitute. In the course of the nineteenth century, the female Hottentot comes to represent the black female in nuce, and the prostitute to represent the sexualized woman. Both of these categories represent the creation of classes which correspondingly represent very specific qualities. While the number of terms describing the various categories of the prostitute expanded substantially during the nineteenth century, all were used to label the sexualized woman. Likewise, while many groups of African blacks were known to Europeans in the nineteenth century, the Hottentot remained representative of the essence of the black, especially the black female. Both concepts fulfilled an iconographic function in the perception and the representation of the world. How these two concepts were associated provides a case study for the investigation of patterns of conventions, without any limitation on the “value” of one pattern over another. Sander L. Gilman is professor of Humane Studies in the Department of German Literature and Near Eastern Studies and professor of Psychiatry in the Cornell Medical College, Cornell University. He is the author or editor of numerous studies of European cultural history with a focus on the history of stereotypes. In addition, he has coedited Degeneration with J. E. Chamberlin. His study Jewish Self-Hatred is forthcoming. (shrink)
These eighty-seven memoirs, anecdotes, and informal recollections by a broad range of reporters reflect both the reality and the myths surrounding this legendary figure. Together, they cover the entire span of Nietzsche's life and yield new insights into Nietzsche as a thinker and as a commentator on his times, recounting his views on religion, philosophy, women, literature, arts, and some of the great thinkers and historical figures.
The on-going discussion about a new empiricism in the study of the medical humanities has lead to a misapprehension about the problems attendant to representing health and illness. The difficulty in understanding the politics of health and illness as well as the concomitant new aestheticism that has arisen concerning its representation demands a rethinking of these categories in the 21st century. Obesity can provide a model for the importance of this problem today.
The essay presents a set of interlinked claims about posture in modern culture. Over the past two centuries it has come to define a wide range of assumptions in the West from what makes human beings human to the efficacy of the body in warfare . Dance and sport both are forms of posture training in terms of their own claims. Posture separates ‘primitive’ from ‘advanced’ peoples and the ‘ill’ from the ‘healthy.’ Indeed an entire medical sub-specialty developed in which (...) gymnastics defined and recuperated the body. But all of these claims were also part of a Western attempt to use posture as the litmus test for the healthy modern body of the perfect citizen. Focusing on the centrality of posture in two oddly linked moments of modern thought—modern Zionist thought and Nationalism in early 20th century China—in terms of bodily reform, we show how “posture” brings all of the earlier debates together to reform the body. (shrink)
Happiness is multiple, conflicting ideas - often changing from context to context with each change presaging a cascade of different meanings and interpretations. In this essay I shall try to link a number of them in a manner that is not causal but, I hope, rather evocative. I want to begin with a specific "Jewish" turn in the history of the concept of happiness at the close of the nineteenth century - one that turns out not to be very "Jewish" (...) in its origin - and conclude with some thoughts on Michael Jackson and our need to understand happiness in the twenty-first century. (shrink)
The debate about "race" and "intelligence" seems to be never ending. The "special nature" of the intelligence ascribed to "Jews" has recently reappeared in an essay by one of the authors of the notorious study of race and intelligence - The Bell Curve . How this debate is constructed and what its implications are for the reappearance of "race" as a category in medical and biological science is at the core of this present essay.
The movement of peoples across linguistic boundaries means the existence of individuals who speak, to a greater or lesser extent, more than one language. How such individuals have in the past and can in the present serve as mediators within the health care system is described and the need for closer attention to such resources stressed.
What if Wittgenstein and Popper were right after all? What is psychoanalysis is not “scientific,” not scientific by any contemporary definition—including Adolf Grünbaum’s—but what if it works all the same?1 What if psychoanalysis is all right in practice, but the theory isn’t scientific? Indeed, what if “science” is defined ideologically rather than philosophically? If we so redefine “science,” it is not to dismiss psychoanalysis but to understand its origin and impact, to follow the ideological dialectic between the history of psychiatry, (...) its developing as a medical “science,” and the evolving self-definition of psychoanalysis which parallels this history. We know that Freud divided psychoanalysis into three quite discrete areas—first, a theory, a “scientific structure”; second, a method of inquiry, a means of exploring and ordering information; and last, but certainly not least, a mode of treatment. Let us, for the moment, follow the actual course of history, at least the course of a history which can be described by sorting out the interrelationship between psychoanalysis and psychiatry, and assume that we can heuristically view the mode of treatment as relatively independent of the other two aspects of psychoanalysis. What if the very claims for a “scientific” basis for psychoanalytic treatment and by extension the role of the psychoanalyst as promulgated by Freud and his early followers were rooted in an ideologically charged historical interpretation of the positivistic nature of science and the definition of the social role of the scientist? This may seem an odd premise to begin an essay on the mutual influence of psychoanalysis and psychiatry, but it is not stranger than the actual historical practice. Psychoanalysis originated not in the psychiatric clinic but in the laboratories of neurology in Vienna and Paris.2 Its point of origin was not nineteenth-century psychiatry but rather nineteenth-century neurology. That origin points to a major difference between the traditional practice of nineteenth-century psychiatry and modern clinical psychiatry in our post-positivistic age. Psychiatry in nineteenth-century Europe, in Vienna as well as in Paris, was an adjunct to the world of the asylum. Indeed, the second great battle which nineteenth-century psychiatry waged was the creation of the “alienist” as a new medical specialty. The alienist was the medical doctor in administrative charge of the asylum, rather than a medical adjunct to the lay asylum director as had earlier, in the age of “moral treatment,” been the practice. Sander L. Gilman is professor of human studies in the departments of German literature and Near Eastern studies, Cornell University, and professor of psychiatry at the Cornell Medical College. He is the author of numerous books on intellectual and literary history. His most recent study is Jewish Self-Hatred . Forthcoming is his study Oscar Wilde’s London and the English edition of his Conversations with Nietzsche. His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry is “Black Bodies, White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth-Century Art, Medicine, and Literature”. (shrink)