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Title: Defining the elephant : a history of psychopathy, 1891-1959
Author: Shapland, Susanna
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 475X
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available