Specific Demographics

American Lobotomy: A Rhetorical History by Jenell Johnson

By Jenell Johnson

American Lobotomy stories a large choice of representations of lobotomy to supply a rhetorical heritage of 1 of the main notorious methods within the background of medication. the advance of lobotomy in 1935 was once heralded as a “miracle therapy” that may empty the nation’s perennially blighted asylums. even though, merely 20 years later, lobotomists at first praised for his or her “therapeutic braveness” have been condemned for his or her barbarity, a picture that has merely soured in next many years. Johnson employs formerly deserted texts like technological know-how fiction, horror movie, political polemics, and conspiracy idea to teach how lobotomy’s entanglement with social and political narratives contributed to a robust photo of the operation that persists to today. The ebook provocatively demanding situations the background of medication, arguing that rhetorical historical past is essential to knowing scientific heritage. It deals a case learn of ways medication accumulates which means because it circulates in public tradition and argues for the necessity to comprehend biomedicine as a culturally positioned perform.

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Alice Hammatt lived at home until her death in 1941 from pneumonia. Her husband later wrote Walter Freeman to thank him, describing those five years as the “happiest of her life” (Freeman and Watts 1950, xix). Lobotomy’s primary objective was to “blunt” strong emotions in order to return mentally ill people to “productive” roles in their families, communities, and the economy. This chapter investigates the medical meanings of lobotomy in the early years of its use in the United States and shows how the argument of emotional impairment that served as lobotomy’s scientific justification was mirrored in constraints on medical discourse.

Doctor: You wanted it? Patient: Yes, but I didn’t think you’d do it awake. O Gee whiz, I’m dying. O doctor. Please stop. O, God. I’m goin again. Oh, oh, oh. Ow. ) Oh, this is awful. Ow (He grabs my hand and sinks his nails into it).  . Doctor: How do you feel? Doctor: You’re grabbing me awful tight. Patient: Am I? I can’t help it. How long does this go on? (Right lower cuts) Doctor: Glad you’re being operated?  . Doctor: What will you do when you’re well? Patient: O, go back to work. Oh, I can’t stand it.

The primary thrust of his comments, however, concerned the slippery concept of emotional impairment used as lobotomy’s scientific rationale. Since one of the primary symptoms ameliorated by lobotomy was anxiety, and since anxiety was not limited to one particular disorder, Grinker charged that it was “obvious” that lobotomy was being “devised for almost the whole field of psychiatry” (American Medical Association 1941a, 180). Moreover, since everyone exhibits some anxiety in their daily affairs, lobotomy was dealing in matters of degree rather than kind and matters of value rather than fact.

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