Twisted Bodies, Broken Minds: Film and Psychiatry in the First World War


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation explores the “discovery” and application of cinematography by neurologists and psychiatrists in the three decades after its invention (1895 -1925), focussing on its use by physicians in France, Britain, and Germany to document the physical symptoms of war neurosis during the First World War. The purpose of the research is to explain the distinct elective affinity that emerged in the early twentieth century between film and medicine, in particular to depict extreme mental states. Why did doctors choose to commit these images of their shaking, contorted, and often naked patients to film and to whom did they show the films they produced? How did the traumatic experience of war determine the nature and reception of these films? Conversely, what were the influences of such images on the depiction of mental illness in popular narrative films?