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In the eighteenth century, Europe began to take stock of the horrific infant mortality in foundling homes and hospitals. Infant feeding and care became a major preoccupation for charities and philanthropic doctors. Some organized systems of wet nurses in the communities and institutions to provide for motherless children.
At the same time, syphilis was becoming a serious problem in newborns. The sexually transmitted disease, which swept the continent following the voyages of Columbus, was known to affect babies born to infected mothers. Since the early sixteenth century, doctors had been convinced that mercury was of benefit.
Founded in 1724, the Vaugirard Hospital of Paris was the city’s home for orphans. By 1780 it had made room for mothers with syphilis and their children. Sometimes the mothers died, or well-off families would abandon their sick children. Healthy wet nurses were engaged to feed these babies.
Eventually, the wet nurses were viewed as a technology—a vehicle--for administering mercury to the babies through their milk. Many of these healthy women fell ill, either from the mercury or by infection from their charges. Nevertheless, the practice continued into the nineteenth century. The wet nurses did not know (or were not told) that the children were infected. The physicians in charge of this experiment also attempted unsuccessfully to vaccinate the wet nurses against syphilis. That experiment also spread the disease.
Remarkably, some wet nurses brought suits against the doctors or the birth families. Occasionally they won damages, and finally the law was changed to offer greater protection.
A woman writer, frustrated by attempts to carve out space and time for her craft at home, tells how she decided to rent an office. It had to be simple and inexpensive. She finds a suitable room owned by a couple who occupy the apartment below. The wife, who will clean, seems delicate, defeated, but kind. The small upstairs bathroom is shared with unoccupied offices along the corridor and cannot be locked.
The writer sets up a card table and chair, and savors her few weekly hours of solitude. But her landlord keeps interrupting to offer things that she doesn’t want--conversation, a chair, a plant, a teapot, tales of himself, salacious details about her predecessor tenant, a chiropractor.
Conscious of her inability to be rude to someone who is being rude to her, she lets him intrude, annoyed with herself for not being firm. Determined not to let him win by forcing her out of the office, she begins to express her wishes. He resents these attempts at honesty, and she worries that she has hurt his feelings.
Gradually she realizes that he is spying on her through his set notions of what a proper woman should be doing in such a space – or any space. One night she returns to find him peering at her work, hoping, she suspects, that she has written about him. He hints that she has been using the office for parties and sex, and then accuses her of defacing the open bathroom with obscenities scrawled in lipstick. He tells her that the mess could not possibly be cleaned by his wife who is a decent person who stays at home.
The man is insane. The salacious activities of her predecessor must have been a delusion—and he may well have lipsticked the bathroom himself. She gives up the office.
An engaging historical analysis of several aspects of the history of madness and art. It includes chapters on the history of
- the portrayal of mentally disturbed people;
- the idea that creative genius is enhanced by mental illness;
- architecture of psychiatric hospitals;
- art therapy; and
- the use of art as a semiotic tool for diagnosis.
Several case studies of individual artists, such as Richard Dadd or Adolf Wölfli are used to exemplify each theme. Special attention is given to artistic movements such as romanticism and expressionism. It is completed by excellent endnotes, a good bilbiography, and detailed annotated index.
The journalist author investigates the hidden lives of his father and his grandfather, both physicians. He is motivated by the mysterious silence that pervaded the ancestral home in a wealthy Toronto neighborhood, and by the frightening tendency to depression and suicide that stalks his family members like an Irish curse.
He uncovers many details of the early adventures of his parents, the failure of their marriage, and his father’s doomed career. From his beginnings as a debonair socialite, the father, Jack, embarks on a promising medical career as an allergist; however, he virtually sinks into taciturn misery and alcoholic self-destruction, unable to express affection or joy. Jack’s endless travails as a patient through shock therapy, analysis, and heavy psychiatric drugs are presented in merciless detail using hospital records and interviews with caregivers. The author’s self-indulgent anger with his self-absorbed father drives the research deeper into the earlier generation, to learn about the grandfather of whom his parents rarely spoke.
The author's grandfather, Irish-born John Gerald FitzGerald (1882-1940), son of an immigrant pharmacist and an invalid mother, strode through the exciting scientific world of the early twentieth century like a medical Forrest Gump. At first, he is drawn into the new fields of psychoanalysis, psychiatry, and neuropathology; cameo appearances of Freud, Ernest Jones and C.K. Clarke light up the story. But then this elder FitzGerald is swayed by the need to control infections and produce vaccines. He travels Europe and the United States for three years learning bacteriology.
Upon his return to Canada in 1913, he fearlessly launches a Canadian-made solution, outfitting a stable and a horse farm to produce rabies vaccine and diphtheria anti-toxin. The initiative evolves into the famous Connaught Laboratories and the School of Hygiene, its academic arm. Other luminaries enter the story– such as Banting and Best of insulin fame and C.B. Farrar of psychiatry. FitzGerald served as Scientific Director of the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation and as Dean of the University of Toronto medical school.
Nevertheless in his late fifties, having accomplished so much, the grandfather crashes into doubt, depression and self-destruction, believing himself a failure and consumed with guilt for some never-disclosed transgression. Did his stellar achievements, his high expectations, and his baffling demise dictate the collapse of his son Jack?
Summary:Edited by Victoria Tischler (a psychologist in the Division of Psychiatry at The University of Nottingham), with forewords by Dinesh Bhugra (Professor of Mental Health and Cultural Diversity at King's College London) and Allan D. Peterkin (who founded ARS MEDICA: A Journal of Medicine, The Arts and Humanities), this handbook is intended to provide guidance on medical humanities teaching in the field of mental health. After a short, familiar introduction to the need for such teaching, Tischler offers concrete guidance on how to begin establishing a medical humanities course. The subsequent chapters deal with topics, perspectives, and forms of art one might include in such a course. There is a "brief history of psychiatry through the arts" by Allen Beveridge which is, as we are warned in the title, somewhat cursory, but also well-written and thought-provoking.
Summary:On July 5, 1998, physics Professor Alan Cromer suffered a heart attack on a plane, and survived after almost an hour of resuscitation efforts, but sustained brain injury from lack of oxygen. In this chronicle of caregiving, his wife, a psychiatric nurse by training, gives a very personal, detailed account of the radical adaptations his disability required of both of them. Her story includes reflection on his and her own emotional adjustments to loss of parity in communication and awareness, practical adjustments to physical limitations, and social adjustments to family, friends and professional colleagues.
In 1951 when Henrietta Lacks was dying of cancer in the colored ward of Johns Hopkins, cancer cells taken from her without her knowledge "became the first immortal human cells grown in a laboratory"(4). Known as HeLa cells, they are still reproducing today and are used world wide in research for cancer, cloning, genetics, Parkinsons, and many technologies. Henrietta's family did not know she was the source of these immortal cells until scientists began testing the family members too. Poor and black, they were very angry to find the white establishment had made fortunes using HeLa cells while the family got nothing for it and couldn't even get good health care. In her thorough and careful investigation, Rebecca Skloot interviewed the Lacks family; scientists, doctors, and others who worked with HeLa cells; historians; journalists; ethicists. This book traces the complex stages of her search for the truth about what happened to Henrietta Lacks, her HeLa cells, and her family.
Summary:Perillo's essays offer a lively, variegated view from the wheelchair of a woman with multiple sclerosis who is also a naturalist, an outdoorswoman, a wife, and an award-winning writer. Not all of them focus on her condition, though observations about living with the disease occur in most, and are thematic to some. Most are also laced with wry humor. One comes to see in these sketches from the Pacific Northwest how full and rich a life it is possible to live while also fully acknowledging and even lamenting the loss of mobility. She invokes Thoreau several times, and her work may be easily situated in his tradition of personal, reflective essays on the natural world. For her, the natural world extends to the world of the body, linked as it is with the bodies of all living things.
Summary:In this collection, which is really a poetry memoir or lengthy poetry sequence, the speaker develops her narrative of a tormented childhood and adolescence, psychological breakdowns, and ongoing struggle in a more "normal" present. The poems are labeled only by section, of which there are four, and are separated simply by their spacing on the page. Section 1, "Cuckoo," reveals the origin of the poet's "life as a doll": "After my mother hit the back /of my head with the bat's /sweet spot, light cried / its way out of my body. . . . I was . . . a doll carved out of a dog's bones . . . my life as a doll / was a life of waiting" (4-5). Mother was an abusive alcoholic (there seems to be no father ever on the scene).
Summary:As explained in the succinct yet thorough introduction by co-editor Kimberly Myers, an international conference on the topic of "The Patient" was convened at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania in 2006. This collection of essays, which range from personal experience to scholarly literary critique, results from the conference presentations.