Deformed, Deranged and Deviant - HI817

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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7 30 (15) DR J Anderson







From those viewed as medical marvels in the nineteenth century to questions surrounding quality of life in the late twentieth century, the course explores the continuities and changes in the relationship between medical science and difference. Between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and into the twentieth, the increasing influence of medical practitioners ensured that disability, deformity, disfigurement and mental illness were categorised through a medical perspective. Categories about the acceptability of physical and social norms were constructed from the eighteenth century, indeed, the term ‘normal’ was not commonly used in the English language until the 1840s. In the nineteenth century, the growth of capitalism and the concentration on industrialization, excluded those deemed different from the workplace and the community as they were not judged to be economically useful. In addition, philanthropic gestures which grew in the nineteenth century, saw people who were categorised as different, moved from mainstream society into institutions, which were often supported by the medical profession. Medical practitioners and the general public were fascinated by difference in body and mind, and often those considered different were observed, studied and experimented on. The influence of medical practice grew in the twentieth century and the course will explore this in relation to (amongst others) the two World Wars, the growth of special institutions and new types of therapy.
Overall, the course will investigate the ways that medicine has understood, categorised and treated those whose body or behaviour was considered different. It will also examine the body and mind as contested sites; spaces occupied by those considered different; the establishment of normality versus deviance; the changing conceptions of difference in this historical period and the shifting theories and methodologies of medical practice in relation to it.

Topics include:

The history of anatomy
Idiocy and feeblemindedness
The development of forensic science
Dying and the rituals of death
Agency, freakery and the politics of display
Homosexuality as deviance
Madness and mental health


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Convenor: Dr Julie Anderson – Contact hours: 2 hours per week

Indicative reading

Patrick McDonagh, Idiocy: A Cultural History (2008)
Rosemarie Garland Thompson, Freakery (1996)
Leslie Feidler, Freaks (1978)
Marlene Tromp, (ed), Victorian Freaks (2008)
Roy Porter, A Social History of Madness (1987)
Nadja Durbach, The Spectacle of Deformity (2009)
Sander L Gilman, Difference and Pathology (1985)
David Turner, and Kevin Stagg, (eds) Social Histories of Disability and Deformity (2006)
Waltraud Ernst, (ed) Histories of the Normal and Abnormal (2006)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

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