Public Seminar, 26th June 2013

The Possessions at Loudun: Their Significance in the History of the Science of Mind
Dr. Craig E. Stephenson (AGAP/CPA/CAPT/IAAP)
UCL Institute of the Americas, Room 105
51 Gordon Square
London WC1H
This seminar focuses on the seventeenth-century possessions at Loudun, France and presents how the events of this famous case played out at the time and how theorizing about possession and obsession changed over almost four centuries of writing about them. For instance, in his definition of demonism for the Schweizer Lexikon (1945) C. G. Jung referred to the debate about Loudun, as did Gilles de la Tourette, Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau, and Jacques Lacan. Eventually, psychopathology co-opted the word ‘obsession’, stripped of its religious connotation, and left the word ‘possession’ outside medical discourse. Then, in 1992, the American Psychiatric Association attempted to introduce ‘possession’ into its diagnostic manual (DSM-IV) as a mental disorder. Revisiting the history of Loudun provides a means for situating the APA’s recent interest in possession within a medical and intellectual continuum.