By Kieran McNally
Schizophrenia was once twentieth century psychiatry's arch proposal of insanity. but for many of that century it used to be either troublesome and contentious. This background explores schizophrenia's historical instability through topics corresponding to indicators, definition, type and anti-psychiatry. In doing so, it opens up new methods of realizing twentieth century madness.
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Additional resources for A Critical History of Schizophrenia
The simplest form of schizophrenia, of the splitting of the personality, is paranoia. … It consists in a simple doubling of the personality, which in milder cases is still held together by the identity of two egos … (1928/1972, p. 226). Given such assertions were not unusual, it seems understandable as to why a 1931 Kansas newspaper discussing ‘Colorado’s macabre scarecrow man’ could sensationalise much about a man found standing cruciform in a corn field but seemingly felt little need to embellish the actual diagnosis: ‘Psychological experts, proclaim him a victim of schizophrenia or split personality’ (Ogden Standard Examiner, 1931, p.
But it is possible that the book’s more nuanced understanding of schizophrenia follows the 1950 translation of Bleuler’s work into English. The tendency by author’s such as Curran and Partridge to transition away from conceiving schizophrenia as split personality was still not universal. In fact, the informal professional usage continued and remained international. A. Gilyarovsky (chair of the USSR Society of Neuropathologists and Psychiatrists) observed the prefix schizo denotes ‘the same “splitting” of the personality, which is undoubtedly a characteristic feature of the disease’ (1961, p.
Bleuler also consolidated his thoughts on schizophrenia in his 1916 (1924) Textbook of Psychiatry and elsewhere. Bleuler’s Dementia Praecox or the Group of Schizophrenias was not translated into English until 1950 (Bleuler, 1911/1950). Nevertheless, owing to its importance as a psychiatric text, and the prominent influence of early twentieth-century German psychiatry, its ideas would have been in circulation among English-speaking psychiatrists and psychologists. Many were somewhat more practised in German than their modern counterparts.