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Idiocy – A Cultural History - Liverpool Scholarship Online
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Idiocy: A Cultural History

Patrick McDonagh


The term ‘idiot’ is a damning put down, whether deployed on the playground or in the board room. People stigmatized as being ‘intellectually disabled’ today must confront variants of the fear and pity with which society has greeted them for centuries. This study explores how artistic, scientific, and sociological interpretations of idiocy work symbolically and ideologically in society. Drawing upon a broad spectrum of British, French and American resources including literary works (Wordsworth's ‘The Idiot Boy’, Dickens' Barnaby Rudge, Conrad's The Secret Agent), pedagogical works (Itard's The ... More

Keywords: idiot, intellectually disabled, fear, pity, idiocy, Wordsworth, Dickens, Barnaby Rudge, Conrad, mental disability

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2008 Print ISBN-13: 9781846310959
Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013 DOI:10.5949/UPO9781846315367


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Patrick McDonagh, author