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Late Nineteenth Century France

Tue 27th

13:40 - 14:00

With the concept of mental health becoming increasingly visible across the Western world during recent years, the question of where our understandings about mental illness come from is of paramount importance. The late nineteenth century in France was a significant period of development with regards to the categorisation, perception, and treatment of mental illness.

This presentation compares depictions of mental illness in the fictional literature of Emile Zola, a prolific late nineteenth-century French writer, with case studies from prominent French medical journals from this period. I argue that this comparison sheds light on how gender roles and concerns about the deterioration of the family unit were thought about within this context. This research demonstrates that the interaction of medical and literary portrayals of mental illness holds up a mirror to late nineteenth-century French society, putting many modern-day perceptions of mental illness into context.

Louise Hall


College of Arts

My name is Louise Hall and I am a final year student of French at the University of Glasgow. I grew up in Inverness and moved to Glasgow five years ago to study although I have also lived and worked in the South-West of France for a year as part of my degree.Having campaigned for improved mental health services with organisations both in Inverness and Glasgow, I decided to apply my interest in perceptions of mental illness to a French history-based research project. Combining my love of modern languages with my interest in the history of psychiatry has been a challenging and hugely rewarding experience which has inspired ideas for future research. I feel strongly that this interdisciplinary approach offers rich and varied insights into many issues and I hope that this research will inspire people to consider present-day mental illness narratives in a new light.


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