Staging Madness: Neuropsychiatrist as Filmmaker in the Early Twentieth Century


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A part of a book
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Chapter: chapter ou part
Staging Madness: Neuropsychiatrist as Filmmaker in the Early Twentieth Century
Title of the book
Epistemic Screens: Science and the Moving Image, in Scott Curtis, Oliver Gaycken & Vinzenz Hediger (eds.)
Berton Mireille
Amsterdam University Press
Publication state
In Press
At the beginning of the twentieth century, psychiatrists and neurologists willing to innovate their practices saw in motion pictures a means of documenting, studying, and archiving patient disorders, with film easily replacing the traditional clinical demonstration. If cinema allows, in certain situations, to see more than ordinary perception, it also allows to see differently. What exactly do these films show us, beyond their aspectual perceptual content and their obvious epistemic functions, which have been repeatedly emphasized by contemporaries and historiography? The hypothesis is that these films and the discourses that surround them provide information about the desire to stage mental or neurological illness through processes that are foreign to the scientific world. In fact, they not only offer the promise of an authentic and complete view of the neuropsychological or neurophysiological disorder, the patient and medical practices, but reveal the difficulty of escaping the spectacularizing of phenomena induced using the film medium. Based on a corpus of texts and films from the beginning of the twentieth century, I intend to analyze the way in which certain neurologists-psychiatrists use this tool to construct a new form of scientific expertise and professional identity located between science, the media and entertainment culture. More precisely, I will ask to what extent the appropriation of the filmic medium allows these doctors to become “neurocinematographers” who put their knowledge on display, while respecting the norms of scientific objectivity.
psychiatry, neurology, Vincenzo Neri, useful film, useful cinema, scientific film, medical film, epistemic media, neurocinematography, scientific objectivity, madness, iconography of madness, art history, medical humanities
Open Access
Swiss National Science Foundation / Projects
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25/08/2022 8:52
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26/08/2022 5:41
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