Thursday Lecture Series: Evidence

The Case of the Mad Baby: Constructing Evidence in the Nineteenth-Century Science of Childhood

Thursday, The Heyman Center

Is it possible for a baby to be “mad?” And on what grounds could
you make a diagnosis? The nineteenth-century development of the
sciences of psychiatry and psychology raised complex issues as to
what constituted evidence in these domains, but such questions
were doubly difficult when applied to the sphere of childhood.
Sally Shuttleworth’s paper looked at the ways in which literary evidence
was deployed in the emerging fields of child psychiatry and
psychology, drawing from the novels of Eliot and Dickens, as well
as autobiographical narratives.
It also explored the gender wars regarding the gathering of
evidence. Should the cold observing eye of masculine science
be privileged over maternal knowledge and understanding? The
paper concluded with discussion of the internal battles waged in
the Child Study Movement of the 1890s, as different constituencies
defended radically opposing models of gathering and defining
evidence.