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European Society for the History of the Human Sciences (ESHHS), Conference 2014, Oulu (Finland), Paper: “Dangerous Passions. The construction and cultural and social impact of the ‘psychiatric’ framework of the passions in France (1790-1830)”, July 22-25 (23th), 2014.
  • Marco Solinas
Numerous excellent works have been written on the formation process of ‘psychiatry’ and its concomitant impact on society and culture at the end of the eighteenth century and in the first three decades of the nineteenth century, in particular with regard to France. From Gladys Swain to Dora Weiner, from Jacques Postel to Jan Goldstein, from Jackie Pigeaud to Juan Rigoli, the issue has been analysed in depth and from a variety of different perspectives. However, despite constantly and inevitably resurfacing in these studies, no particular attention has been paid to the passions and emotions drawn up by nascent psychiatry. Here, a truly epoch-making caesura can be found in terms of the social concepts and representations, and the correlated modes of behaviour, of the passions and emotions of Western civilisation. Indeed, since ancient times the passions have also been interpreted as ‘diseases of the soul.’ Yet, it was only within the birth of the new science of mental illnesses, a process which gave rise to ‘experimental medicine’, that a far-reaching medical-therapeutic framework emerged. It was in this context that a strict theoretical and therapeutic programme was launched, which aimed at the systematic medicalization of all the human passions and emotions, and proposed, at the same time, their treatment in a vast body of public and private institutions, specifically set up for the purpose. In the words used by the psychiatrist Philippe Pinel, it was a programme which aimed to create a ‘histoire médicale des passions’ and a series of broad and profound institutional (and political) reforms to face up to the literal ‘dangerosité’ to mental health ascribed to the passions: reforms that would gradually transform the manners of housing and treating the mentally ill, commencing with those from the middle and upper classes, who were offered a whole new array of private care facilities. In other words, it is only with its birth and increasingly wide diffusion in the new public hospitals and private care homes for the mentally ill that a ‘medical-philosophical’ framework became established, and began to exert a great influence on the traditional ways of representing and interpreting the passions and the canonically correlated modes of behaviour. Thus, a variety of figures gradually came to be transformed: suffice it to think of the melancholic poet, the impassioned lover, the fanatic rebel, and their transfigurations and transpositions in literature and theatre. Hence, what changed was both the day-to-day life of the committed mental patients, and how mental illness was perceived and interpreted in society, both in itself and in relation to the sphere of the passions. In short, and this is the first objective that this paper aims to demonstrate, we are dealing with the origins of the very process of medicalisation and true pathologisation of the emotions, many consequences of which are still with us today. In order to achieve the objectives described above, the paper is eminently interdisciplinary. By using the current debate on the history of the emotions, it aims to explore further the late-eighteenth-century ‘psychiatric revolution’ and some of its main consequences on the history of emotions. In short, the task is to outline the extraordinary cultural and social impact that the development of the new public and private hospital institutions had on the traditional ways of interpreting, decoding, representing and experiencing a wide spectrum of emotions.
  • History,
  • Psychology,
  • Social Psychology,
  • Emotion,
  • Psychiatry,
  • French History,
  • History of Medicine,
  • History of Science,
  • History Of Emotions,
  • History of Psychiatry,
  • Emotions (Social Psychology),
  • Emotion Regulation,
  • History Of Madness And Psychiatry,
  • History Of Psychology,
  • History of Human Sciences,
  • Affect/Emotion,
  • Medicine (History),
  • Social History of Medicine,
  • Medicine,
  • Emotions,
  • Cultural History of Medicine,
  • Medicina,
  • Madness,
  • Passion,
  • History of Sciences,
  • History of Madness & Psychiatry,
  • History Medicine,
  • History of Philosophy,
  • Pinel
Publication Date
July 23, 2014
Citation Information
Marco Solinas. "European Society for the History of the Human Sciences (ESHHS), Conference 2014, Oulu (Finland), Paper: “Dangerous Passions. The construction and cultural and social impact of the ‘psychiatric’ framework of the passions in France (1790-1830)”, July 22-25 (23th), 2014." (2014)
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