Chapter

Origins of Obsession

in Obsession

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780226137827
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226137797 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226137797.003.0002
Origins of Obsession

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This chapter traces how obsession eventually became categorized as an “illness.” The discussion includes demonic obsession in Shakespeare; banning in the eighteenth century of the idea that obsession meant demonic possession; the expansion of the category of madness from the restrictive sense of idiocy, lunacy, or melancholia to the larger and more capacious states around obsession; the organ theory and the concept of humors and vapors; the movement to extend madness from a small number of people to a rather large number; the tenuous line between madness and genius; partial insanity and the law; and William Godwin's Caleb Williams, the first obsessive novel.

Keywords: demonic possession; melancholia; organ theory; humors; vapors; madness; genius; insanity; Caleb Williams

Chapter.  14670 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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