The Heyman Center (Second Floor Common Room), Columbia University, New York
Speaker: Katja Guenther, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of History, Princeton University
This talk brings the study of material culture to an unlikely object: the mind. Focusing on three episodes of mirror use in the medicine and science of the mind in the twentieth century, I analyze the ways in which this simple piece of experimental equipment has been used to capture the mind’s workings. I examine the psychologist Gordon G. Gallup’s work on chimpanzee self recognition, the neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran’s use of the “mirror box” to treat phantom limb pain, and the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s formulation of the imaginary based on his theory of the “mirror stage.”
Katja Guenther specializes in the history of modern medicine and the mind sciences. She is a trained doctor (M.D., University of Cologne) who has worked in hospitals in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, and holds a research degree in neuroscience (M.Sc., Oxford University). She received her Ph.D. from the Department of the History of Science at Harvard in 2009. Guenther has published a number of articles and edited and translated into English one of Sigmund Freud’s early texts, “Critical Introduction to Neuropathology.” She recently completed a book manuscript focusing on the history of psychoanalysis and the neuro disciplines (neurology, neurosurgery and the neurosciences). She is working on a new project on mirrors in the mind and brain sciences to explain why the mirror is an object of fascination for a wide range of researchers, and to examine how it has allowed the development of new theories of the mind and approaches to treatment.