Catatonia: Faces in the Fire

  • Kieran McNally
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Theory and History of Psychology book series (PSTHP)


It is impossible to examine all the historical subtypes of schizophrenia, with the kind of attention they might deserve. Nevertheless, we will attempt the study of one major subtype, whose problematic roots pre-date twentieth-century schizophrenia. Namely, we will examine a schizophrenia subtype, emerging from a concept earlier proposed by Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum in 1874: catatonia. And, as we shall see, as the twentieth century unfolded, descriptions of catatonia were increasingly accompanied by a narrative of disappearance. This will reveal much that is illustrative about the kind of problems incorporated into schizophrenia’s conceptualisation. It will also reveal more of the contradictions, ambiguities, and inconsistencies upheld and tolerated by the concept’s supporters.


Critical History Anonymous Report Lunatic Asylum Back Ward Catatonic Symptom 
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Copyright information

© Kieran McNally 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kieran McNally
    • 1
  1. 1.University College DublinIreland

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