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From Gleann na nGealt to Schizophrenia: A Structure of Refusal?

The Letter, Issue 40, Spring 2009, Pages 19 - 32


From Gleann na nGealt to Schizophrenia:

A Structure of Refusal?[1]


Helen Sheehan


This paper examines some aspects of the history of mental illness in Ireland from a Freudian perspective. It draws on the work of Joseph Robins and of Michel Foucault and argues that the concept of Schizophrenia cannot be understood outside its social and political context.

Keywords: Gleann na nGealt; trauma; fear; guilt; compromise; paying the price.


1908 was an important year in the history of psychoanalysis. The first psychoanalytic Congress was held in Salzburg in the spring of that year and Freud tells us that it “brought together friends of psychoanalysis from Vienna, Zürich and other places”.[2] One of the results of this Congress was the founding of a periodical called “The Yearbook for Psychoanalytic and Psychopathological Research” which appeared for five years under the editorship of Jung and the direction of Freud and Bleuler.


This publication gave expression to an intimate cooperation between Vienna and Zürich. Freud continues:

“Bleuler’s great work on Schizophrenia in which the psycho­ analytic point of view was placed on an equal footing with the clinical systematic one, completed this success - after this it was impossible for psychiatrists to ignore psychoanalysis any longer”.[3]


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