The vital place of literature and the figure of the writer in Russian society and history have been extensively studied, but their role in the evolution of psychiatry is less well known. In Diagnosing Literary Genius: A Cultural History of Psychiatry in Russia, 1880-1930, Irina Sirotkina explores the transformations of Russian psychiatric practice through its relationship to literature. During this period, psychiatrists began to view literature as both an indicator of the nation's mental health and an integral part of its well-being. By aligning themselves with writers, psychiatrists argued that the aim of their science was not dissimilar to the literary project of exploring the human soul and reflecting on the psychological ailments of the age. Through the writing of pathographies (medical biographies), psychiatrists strengthened their social standing, debated political issues under the guise of literary criticism, and asserted moral as well as professional claims.
By examining the psychiatric engagement with the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, and the decadents and revolutionaries, Sirotkina provides a rich account of Russia's medical and literary history during this turbulent revolutionary period.
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Number of pages: 288
Weight: 544 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 25 mm
Irina Sirotkina gives a fascinating account of the growth of psychiatry in Russia through the prism of literature. -- Anne Garside Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease [Sirotkina] has a deep interest in her subject, and she offers a mine of information and commentary about the linked histories of psychiatry and literature in Russia (and in the post-1917 Russian emigre community). The results of her archival research are most rewarding for anyone interested in the history of Russian psychiatry. -- Daniel Rancour-Laferriere Times Literary Supplement In this absorbing work of exemplary scholarship, Irina Sirotkina... convincingly correlates trends in the theory and practice of Russian psychotherapy, during the fifty-year period studied, with changing developments in sociopolitical thought. -- Martin Bidney Slavic Review A worthy and cleverly constructed attempt to redress the excesses of casting psychiatry as a self-interested body. -- Ben Mayhew Medical History 2004 A valuable contribution to our understanding of the history of Russian psychiatry. -- Laura Goering Journal of the History of Medicine 2004 An interesting and respectable history of a critical time in Russia's history. -- Cary Federman European Legacy