American Lobotomy: A Rhetorical History by Jenell Johnson

By Jenell Johnson

American Lobotomy reports a large choice of representations of lobotomy to supply a rhetorical historical past of 1 of the main notorious methods within the background of medication. the improvement of lobotomy in 1935 used to be heralded as a “miracle medication” that may empty the nation’s perennially blighted asylums. although, simply 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 purely soured in next many years. Johnson employs formerly deserted texts like technology fiction, horror movie, political polemics, and conspiracy concept to teach how lobotomy’s entanglement with social and political narratives contributed to a strong snapshot of the operation that persists to this present day. The booklet provocatively demanding situations the heritage of drugs, arguing that rhetorical background is essential to knowing scientific background. It deals a case examine of ways drugs accumulates which means because it circulates in public tradition and argues for the necessity to comprehend biomedicine as a culturally located perform.

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Example text

6 Fulton’s “startled” and negative response did not sway Moniz, who returned to Portugal and began to operate on patients with neurosurgeon 24 American Lobotomy Almeida Lima (J. 7 Just one year later, Freeman and Watts shaved off Alice Hammatt’s curly hair. In a prefrontal lobotomy, surgeons drilled two holes through the skull, inserted a specialized instrument called a leucotome through the burr holes into the brain, and swept it back and forth to sever fibers between the frontal lobes, located immediately behind the forehead, and the thalamus, situated in the middle of the brain (for a detailed description, see Freeman and Watts 1950, 33–­50).

Participants on the panel included James Lyerly, Edward Strecker, and Walter Freeman, all practicing psychosurgeons, and M. A. 16 The moderator of the discussion, neurosurgeon Paul Bucy, admitted it might “appear that this group in the main has been stacked in favor of the procedure” but insisted that it was not the organizers’ fault, since so few of their colleagues were willing to voice their concerns (174). The panel’s voice of opposition was Roy R. 17 Grinker admitted he had no “personal” experience with lobotomy and had prepared for the meeting 34 American Lobotomy by talking with those in the field and reading all the “medical literature that has been available, including the Saturday Evening Post” (American Medical Association 1941a, 177).

In this theory, psychopathology was located neither in the frontal lobes nor in the thalamus—­in fact, it wasn’t necessarily located anywhere at all. Freeman and Watts’s theory of psychopathology was “neither fully present nor absent, neither freely mobile nor totally static,” but “poised undecidably between force and space, between dynamism and location,” to borrow language from Elizabeth Wilson (1998, 186). Emotion is part of the typical economy of the brain. Indeed, lack of emotion is considered a symptom (“flat affect”) of conditions like schizophrenia.

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