Psychopathologies of time: Defining mental illness in early 20th-century psychiatry

History of the Human Sciences 32 (2):3-31 (2019)
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Abstract

This article examines the role of time as a methodological tool and pathological focus of clinical psychiatry and psychology in the first half of the 20th century. Contextualizing ‘psychopathologies of time’ developed by practitioners in Europe and North America with reference to the temporal theories implicit in Freudian psychoanalysis and Henri Bergson’s philosophy of durée, it illuminates how depression, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders such as obsessive-compulsive behaviours and aphasia were understood to be symptomatic of an altered or disturbed ‘time-sense’. Drawing upon a model of temporal synthesis whereby in healthy individuals, a subjective temporal sense was perceived and understood in relation to objective time frameworks, clinicians argued that mentally ill patients were unable to synthesize Ichzeit and Weltzeit, using variations in this disturbance to define specific pathological conditions.

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