Idiocy

BookIdiocy

Idiocy

A Cultural History

Representations: Health, Disability, Culture and Society, 3

2008

November 1st, 2008

£18.50
£80.00

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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 Patrick McDonagh 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.

Whether you know a great deal about the history of disability or nothing at all, Idiocy is an excellent book. For the scholar, it offers a sophisticated map of the concept's past and a model for further studies. For the general reader, it offers an insightful view of some familiar characters and plots, and an introduction to idiot characters from across English literary history and genres.
Penny L. Richards, Times Higher Education Supplement

Times Higher Education Supplement

McDonagh has set a new standard in the history of intellectual disability. The book should be in every library, and available to disability activists, advocates, allies, and consumers. The book has an obvious appeal to scholars interested in disability studies and disability history, but is also valuable to scholars of literature, social and medical history, the history of education, and gender studies. McDonagh's prose is far from breezy, but it is also far from pompous, and the book is as suitable for any persevering reader as it is for the specialist. In sum, Idiocy is an outstanding study of the representation of idiocy as a fluid, symbolic cultural force. McDonagh uses the best of disability studies and, in turn, contributes greatly to the field.

H-Disability, H-Net Reviews

Idiocy is an outstanding study of the representation of idiocy as a fluid, symbolic cultural force. McDonagh uses the best of disability studies and, in turn, contributes greatly to the field.

h-net online

Idiocy is a necessary read because attempts to inform our stereotypes of idiots are so scarce. In reading Idiocy we may realize just how vulnerable our own claims to rights of dignity and self-government truly are.

Rover Arts

Idiocy: A Cultural History is an engaging and ambitious achievement. Most importantly, through showing the shifting and contingent nature of 'idiocy', McDonagh allows us to glimpse that 'learning disability' need not always mean what it does today.

British Journal of Learning Disabilities Vol. 37, No. 3

Whether you know a great deal about the history of disability or nothing at all, Idiocy is an excellent book. For the scholar, it offers a supplicated map of concept's past and a model for further studies. For general reader, it offers an insightful view of some familiar characters and plots, and an introduction to idiot characters from across English literary history and genres.

Times Higher Education

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About The Author

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