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Language and memory disorder in the case of Jonathan Swift: considerations on retrospective diagnosis

Lorch, Marjorie P. (2006) Language and memory disorder in the case of Jonathan Swift: considerations on retrospective diagnosis. Brain 129 (11), pp. 3127-3137. ISSN 0006-8950.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awl246

Abstract

The cause of behavioural changes described by Alzheimer for his original case, Auguste D., has been recently reconfirmed by histological examination. However, there has been active speculation regarding the cause of behavioural changes exhibited by the political satirist Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) during the final three years of his life for over 250 years. Swift’s symptoms of cognitive changes, memory impairment, personality alterations, language disorder and facial paralysis have all been apportioned differing levels of significance in various attempts at retrospective diagnosis. The various medical arguments put forward from the 18th through 20th centuries will be critically examined. The diagnoses considered refer to evolving theories of insanity, phrenology, localization of cortical function, hydrocephalus, psychoanalysis, aphasia, dementia and depression in ageing. Re-consideration of the attempts to re-diagnose Swift’s final mental state by the leading neurological thinkers of the day, including Wilde (The Closing Years of Dean Swift’s Life. Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1849), Bucknill (1882), Osler [Osler’s textbook Principles and Practice of Medicine (1892); published in St Thomas’s Hospital Gazette (London) 1902; 12: 59–60), Brain (Irish Med J 1952: 320–1 and 337–346) and Boller and Forbes (J Neurol Sci 1998; 158: 125–133) reveal the changing attitudes regarding the significance of behavioural symptoms to neurological diagnosis from the 18th century to the present day.

Item Type: Article
Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Alzheimer’s disease, aphasia, medical history, diagnosis, Jonathan Swift
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Applied Linguistics and Communication
Depositing User: Prof Marjorie Lorch
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:16
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/584

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