"The sensation of infinite vastness"; or, the emergence of agoraphobia in the late 19th century

Callard, F. (2006) "The sensation of infinite vastness"; or, the emergence of agoraphobia in the late 19th century. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 24(6), pp. 873-889. (doi: 10.1068/d387t)

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Agoraphobia—literally fear of the agora, the Greek place of assembly or marketplace— emerged as a named disorder in 1871 and, from the start, stymied physicians who attempted to explain its cause. They found it difficult to explain why overwhelming anxiety overtook otherwise ‘sane’ individuals in particular settings. In this paper I argue that the affective nature of agoraphobic anxiety could neither be explained by nor captured within the accounts of space perception and representation put forward in the late-19th-century clinical literature. Those accounts relied on a ‘specular’ model in which the individual was able to represent to himself or herself that which he or she perceived; in contrast, the patients' experiences of overwhelming anxiety were characterized by a temporary loss of the symbolization of spatial relations and could not, therefore, be understood within a specular economy. I read late-19th-century attempts to account for agoraphobia, then, not as exemplars in a typology of ‘psy’ practices, but, rather, as a failure of the psy complex to map the spatial coordinates of agoraphobic anxiety adequately.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Callard, Professor Felicity
Authors: Callard, F.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN (Online):1472-3433

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