Psychopathy In Blue Velvet And Geek Love

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“The psychopaths are always around. In calm times we study them, but in times of upheaval, they rule over us” (Kretschmer 94). This quote by German psychiatrist Ernst Kretschmer identifies the mental illness of psychopathy as capable of both academic and social interest. The concept of psychopathy has been evolving since the 19th century, with authors like Robert Smith attributing the mental illness to religious failings and a lack of cognitive distinction between right and wrong (13). However, a psychopath’s lack of empathy is significant to the possibility of transgression because it has the capacity to challenge official culture and dominant ideology. Author Janis Svilpis states that fiction works as a “literature of ideas,” therefore…show more content…
According to Smith, the recognition of mental illnesses have forced the courts to question legal culpability (6). For example, the 1724 case Rex v. Arnold introduced the principle of “proof of insanity as an exemption from intent” (Smith 6). This led to the adoption of the “Durham Criterion,” in which the courts find that the defendant is not legally responsible if they are proven to have “substantial incapacity to conform to the law” (Smith 13). If we compare the legal history of mental illness to Szasz’s claims that mental illness is a myth, the legal treatment of psychopathy can be shown as another form of toleration. Szasz states that the myth of mental illness functions to create a “social intercourse [that] would be harmonious, satisfying, and the secure basis of a good life” (96). As such, a lack of culpability from criminal prosecution functions to further place psychopaths as a deviant in society. In turn, the legal treatment of psychopaths can be interpreted as a toleration of destructive behaviour, which was previously shown to increase their power in altering official

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