Insanity and Criminality in Literature

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Pages 11 (2761 words)
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The nineteenth century was a period of socio-political turmoil. Technological advances, rapid cultural changes and the evolution of alternate worldviews all combined to inspire a reconsideration of the human condition and man's status in the world and vis--vis others.


. . are seen as contestable, but those of science as inconvertible" (6). In earlier times the reverse was true: religion was inconvertible and science was contestable. Although the shift that granted science technical status as "the accurate reading of Nature's book with eyes undistorted by social interest or cultural prejudice'" occurred over a long period of time (Wright and Treacher 4), in the narrow context of insanity and culpability the shift from moral conceptions of insanity to physiological conceptions of insanity occurred during the nineteenth century when voluntarist discourse, with its assumptions of free will, individual responsibility, and self-discipline, conflicted with determinist/fatalist discourse, with its assumption of inevitability and the inescapability of predetermined fate.
The conflict between these different worldviews led to confusion regarding normal versus abnormal human behaviour and, indeed, to debate over sanity versus insanity. The question became whether humans freely chose their path and was their path imposed upon them. Needless to say, the implication here was that man's status in the universe and his role in his society/world were all questioned. ...
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