American Lobotomy: A Rhetorical History by Jenell Johnson

Specific Demographics

By Jenell Johnson

American Lobotomy stories a wide selection of representations of lobotomy to provide a rhetorical background of 1 of the main notorious methods within the historical past of drugs. the improvement of lobotomy in 1935 was once heralded as a “miracle therapy” that might empty the nation’s perennially blighted asylums. notwithstanding, in simple terms two decades later, lobotomists first and foremost praised for his or her “therapeutic braveness” have been condemned for his or her barbarity, a picture that has merely soured in next a long time. Johnson employs formerly deserted texts like technological know-how fiction, horror movie, political polemics, and conspiracy thought to teach how lobotomy’s entanglement with social and political narratives contributed to a strong photograph of the operation that persists to at the present time. The ebook provocatively demanding situations the background of drugs, arguing that rhetorical heritage is important to figuring out scientific background. It bargains 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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As such, I tend to focus attention on moments of intertextual resonance—­the movement, echoing, and inevitable refraction of terms, concepts, and discursive fragments—­rather than offering a succession of close readings of discrete texts like one would find in many literary or cultural histories. Chapter 1 focuses on early medical meanings of lobotomy by exploring its use to “blunt” strong emotion in people diagnosed with mental illness. Using information from medical literature and transcripts of conference proceedings, chapter 1 shows how the therapeutic objective of lobotomy—­the flattening of affect—­was mirrored in professional regulation of emotional discourse about its use and value.

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. Doctor: What job? Patient: O, it’s a good job, brakeman with a railroad. Doctor: Scared? 28 American Lobotomy Patient: Yeh.

During research for the documentary “My Lobotomy,” Howard Dully visited the Freeman and Watts archives at George Washington University, where he read his case file for the first time. When Howard read about the incident with his brother described in Freeman’s article above, however, he stopped short. It had never happened. Howard Dully had gone to the archives in order to answer a question he had been asking his entire life: Had he done something to deserve the lobotomy? In the case file he found the answer, “and the answer was no.

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