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by appointment: Yvonne Wübben

Unit 2: Literature and Anthropological Knowledge

Prof. Dr. Dr. Yvonne Wübben

The AG-2 deals with epistemic genres, especially with textbooks in various disciplines and the reading and writing practices that can be linked to it.

Yvonne Wübben works on the history and theory of the psychiatric textbook. One of the projects aims is to investigate the role textbooks played in inaugurating new disease entities. For a long time, approaches to the history of psychiatry have privileged institutional or social factors, the texts remain to a large extent blackboxed: the question how authoritative psychiatric textbooks were actually established, their concrete functions and use in various arenas – ranging from literature and journalism to legal and bureaucratic contexts – have rarely been investigated in closer detail. To what extent can books act on readers, how do they provoke or enable certain forms of action?
How were they used in clinical teaching? Up to the present day, clinical teaching is an important means of transmitting psychiatric knowledge. In different stages of professional training knowledge is shaped through textbooks. Students read and reread books in order to gain or dispute insights within a vast and complex medical field. In addition, there are various lay readers – literary authors as well as sociologists – who shape psychiatric knowledge outside of the inner circles of the discipline. The project investigates these forms of readings as a crucial aspect in the history of psychiatry. It reconstructs the writing, reading and teaching practices by focusing on the rhetoric of the book, its strategies of visualization, its narrations and typographic codes. Particular emphasis is on the late 19th and early 20th century, when psychiatry entered into its phase of professionalization.

Sabine Ohlenbusch works on Richard von Krafft-Ebings textbooks, on his textbook of Clinical Psychiatry and on the by far more famous Psychopathia sexualis. She compares the textbooks in respect to their popularization strategies and case histories. Krafft-Ebing devoted much time to writing and sorting his cases. Which functions did they actually serve in the formation of new disease entities and in the popularization of Clinical Psychiatry and Sexual Pathology? Who were his readers and how did they influence and shape his textbooks?

Manuel Mackasare works on the teaching of literary knowledge in the period of the German Empire 1871-1914. His primary sources are didactical textbooks, which are closely linked to contemporary pedagogics and literature reception. His project investigates the specific links between the pedagogical intention and the literary reference text and asks, how pedagogical intentions interact with establishing norms and literary objects. Pedagogics often aim at both, establishing their own authority and defining texts adequate for teaching.