Idiocy: A Cultural History

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Liverpool University Press, 2008 - History - 369 pages
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The term "idiot" is a damning put down, whether deployed on the playground or in the board room. People stigmatized as being "intellectually disabled" today must confront variants of the fear and pity with which society has greeted them for centuries. In this ground-breaking new study PatrickMcDonagh explores how artistic, scientific and sociological interpretations of idiocy work symbolically and ideologically in society. Drawing upon a broad spectrum of British, French and American resources including literary works (Wordsworth's "The Idiot Boy", Dickens "Barnaby Rudge", Conrad's "The Secret Agent"), pedagogical works (Itard's "The Wild Boy of Aveyron", Sequin's "Traitement moral, hygiene et education des idiots",and Howe's "On the courses of Idiocy"), medical and scientific papers (Philippe Pinel, Henry Maudsley, William Ireland, John Langdon Downs, Isaac Kerlin, Henry Goddard) and sociological writings (Mayhew's "London Labour and the London Poor", Beames' "The Rookeries of London", Dugdal's "The Jukes"),Idiocy: A Cultural History offers a rich study of the history and representation of mental disability.

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Preface and acknowledgements
idiocy culture and human relations 1
William Wordsworth
A pupil of innocent Nature The wild boy of Aveyron
masculinity and idiocy 79
femininity and idiocy 102
folly innocence
holy fools and idiots come
Sensational idiocy 231
idiocy evolution and degeneration 257
the threat of the urban idiot 289
the Royal Commission
Epilogue 332
Bibliography 338
Index 360


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About the author (2008)

Patrick McDonagh is a freelance writer and journalist who also teaches at Concordia University Canada.