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    Defining the elephant : a history of psychopathy, 1891-1959

    Shapland, Susanna (2019) Defining the elephant : a history of psychopathy, 1891-1959. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Although ‘psychopath’ is a term which is still in use by psychiatrists, it has come to be used as a way of dismissing individuals as irredeemably ‘bad’, untreatable or unpleasant, both by professionals and the public. This attitude is supported by existing histories of psychopathy that are in fact simply histories of the criminal personality, and rely upon retrofitting the diagnosis to historical examples of criminal or problematic behaviour to support their claims of psychopathy’s universal and timeless nature. This thesis disrupts that narrative. By examining the ways in which the terms psychopath, psychopathy and psychopathic are used in historical context, and how this changed over time, it challenges the idea of psychopathy as a fixed and value-free term, and reveals that there were multiple, competing versions of psychopathy in a history rich with contested meanings and overlapping usage. In analysing discussions of how psychopaths were diagnosed, managed and treated, it shows that the history of psychopathy is marked by a fundamental lack of agreement over the parameters of this ‘wastebasket’ diagnosis, which time and again proved too useful to discard.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 23 May 2019 09:56
    Last Modified: 09 Sep 2022 13:35


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