Institutional Scholarship

"Confinement as the Instrument of Conversion": Insanity, Criminality, and Solitude in Early Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia

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dc.contributor.advisor Graham, Lisa Jane, 1963-
dc.contributor.author Schoder, Ellen
dc.date.accessioned 2019-09-03T15:40:19Z
dc.date.available 2019-09-03T15:40:19Z
dc.date.issued 2019
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10066/21904
dc.description.abstract The Friends Asylum and Eastern State Penitentiary are a useful pair of institutions for studying insanity and criminality in early nineteenth-century Philadelphia. The asylum opened in 1817 and the penitentiary opened in 1829, reflecting the historical period in which insanity and criminality were being treated differently. In the eighteenth century, Benjamin Rush, a physician in Philadelphia, studied insanity and criminality in several essays and lectures. He advocated for the creation of asylums and penitentiaries, and considered the effects of solitude on the mind. Rush’s writing reflected conflicting views of solitude, as he depicted it as both a cause and a treatment for mental health conditions. In the nineteenth century, when the Friends Asylum and Eastern State Penitentiary opened, they implemented new ideas about insanity and criminality. Both the asylum and the penitentiary discussed how to change the mind, debating the “curability” and “incurability” of insanity and criminality. Moreover, the asylum and the penitentiary debated the effects of solitude on the “insane mind” and the “criminal mind.” In fact, both institutions employed solitary confinement to treat patients and prisoners. Nevertheless, a conflict emerged: while the asylum used solitary confinement to treat insanity, the penitentiary was concerned that solitary confinement would produce insanity. Thus, solitude carried both benefits and risks. Ultimately, however, the asylum and the penitentiary designed solitary spaces to reap the benefits of solitude for patients’ and prisoners’ minds.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of History
dc.language.iso eng
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
dc.subject.lcsh Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason
dc.subject.lcsh Eastern State Penitentiary of Pennsylvania
dc.subject.lcsh Mental illness -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia
dc.subject.lcsh Solitary confinement -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia
dc.title "Confinement as the Instrument of Conversion": Insanity, Criminality, and Solitude in Early Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Bi-College users only


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