Monomania and Perpetual Motion: Insanity and Amateur Scientific Enthusiasm in Nineteenth-Century Medical, Scientific and Literary Discourse

Duffy, Larry (2010) Monomania and Perpetual Motion: Insanity and Amateur Scientific Enthusiasm in Nineteenth-Century Medical, Scientific and Literary Discourse. French Cultural Studies, 21 (3). pp. 155-166. ISSN 0957-1558. (The full text of this publication is not available from this repository)

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Official URL
http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0957155810370381

Abstract

This article traces the cultural history of a recurrent association made in nineteenth-century French medical, scientific and literary texts between variants of 'monomania' - a broad term denoting obsessive fixation on a particular object in a subject presumed otherwise sane - and amateur scientific enthusiasm, specifically for perpetual motion, a phenomenon long acknowledged as impossible, and metonymy for similar chimera. A reading of alienist texts in conjunction with literary texts - emblematically, Zola's La Bete humaine, which links human and thermodynamic dysfunctionality - reveals that a specifically homicidal monomania is closely linked with the specific delusion that perpetual motion is possible, at the very moment when monomania is superseded, or considerably modified, by degeneration theories, when the degenerative nature of thermodynamic engines becomes widely accepted, and when disciplinary power - in Foucauldian terms - supersedes sovereignty.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: amateur science; cultural history; Michel Foucault; monomania; perpetual motion; psychiatry; Emile Zola
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages > French
Depositing User: Fiona Godfrey
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2012 15:31
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2012 09:49
Resource URI: http://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/30309 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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