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The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840-1880$
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Wendy Gonaver

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469648446

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469648446.001.0001

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(p.194) Conclusion
The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840-1880

Wendy Gonaver

University of North Carolina Press

The conclusion opens with discussion of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Feather,” a satire of moral treatment. Poe was a distant cousin of Superintendent John M. Galt, and he might have based his fictional institution on the Eastern Lunatic Asylum, particularly his depiction of the attendants as African apes. This story provides an opportunity to review the ideals and shortcomings of moral therapy, and to connect the history of psychiatry to analysis of race. It is asserted that racial antipathy undermined humane asylum care and stalled implementation of successful outpatient care models. Instead, moral medicine gave way to moral hygiene and eugenics as asylum and prison moved closer together. The conclusion ends with a brief discussion of psychiatrist Franz Fanon, who drew upon his professional experiences to outline a different asylum nightmare than that envisioned by Poe.

Keywords:   Edgar Allen Poe, moral treatment, humane care, asylum, racial antipathy, outpatient care, moral hygiene, eugenics, prison, Franz Fanon

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