By Irina Sirotkina
The very important position of literature and the determine of the author in Russian society and historical past were greatly studied, yet their position within the evolution of psychiatry is much less renowned. In Diagnosing Literary Genius: A Cultural historical past of Psychiatry in Russia, 1880-1930, Irina Sirotkina explores the modifications of Russian psychiatric perform via its courting to literature. in this interval, psychiatrists started to view literature as either a trademark of the nation's psychological overall healthiness and a vital part of its wellbeing and fitness. via aligning themselves with writers, psychiatrists argued that the purpose in their technological know-how used to be no longer varied to the literary undertaking of exploring the human soul and reflecting at the mental diseases of the age.
Through the writing of pathographies (medical biographies), psychiatrists bolstered their social status, debated political matters below the guise of literary feedback, and asserted ethical in addition to expert claims. via reading the psychiatric engagement with the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, and the decadents and revolutionaries, Sirotkina presents a wealthy account of Russia's clinical and literary historical past in this turbulent innovative interval.
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Extra info for Diagnosing literary genius : a cultural history of psychiatry in Russia, 1880-1930
Psychological experiments, as he wrote, maintained his academic spirit. ”⁷⁹ Kraepelin remained in Dorpat until political reaction, which followed the murder of Alexander II in , began to aﬀect the universities. The government set out to limit academic freedoms and increase the powers of its inspectors over student and faculty bodies. ⁸⁰ Later in the decade Dorpat was given a Russiﬁed name, Iur’ev, and the university was renamed the Imperial Iur’ev University. ⁸¹ His career, however, did not suﬀer, as he had already been called to a chair in Heidelberg.
Turgenev (–), in whose characters he found excellent illustrations of insanity. ”⁸⁹ He especially valued Turgenev’s observation that the mentally ill had strangely shining eyes. ⁹⁰ Chizh next wrote an essay on the poet Alexander Pushkin (–) for Pushkin’s centenary in . ” Pushkin’s contemporaries, including Tsar Nicholas I, regarded him as one of the brightest men of his time. ⁹¹ After the famous speech by Dostoevsky at the unveiling of the monument to Pushkin in Moscow in , the poet had become a ﬁgure onto whom anyone who wished to make a political claim projected his attitude.
Although some historians have argued that the history of psychological experimentation on the mentally ill was the result of sheer coincidence— that is, Kraepelin, a Wundtian, also happened to be a psychiatrist⁶⁰—there was more to it than being simply an outgrowth of Kraepelin’s personal history. Like Kraepelin, Chizh became enthusiastic about the project of reforming psychiatry with the help of experimental psychology. ⁶³ At a meeting of the Moscow Psychological 30 d i ag no s i ng l i te rary g e n i u s Society in , the psychiatrists G.
Diagnosing literary genius : a cultural history of psychiatry in Russia, 1880-1930 by Irina Sirotkina