Knotted Tongues: Stuttering in History & the Quest for a Cure

Overview

Two and a half million Americans - fifty-five million people worldwide - stutter. Though their baffling malady has been subjected to endless analysis for over 2,500 years, most endure it without hope of a cure. The very anticipation of stuttering can dominate a victim's social and emotional life. If the majority suffer in anonymity, famous figures down through the ages - Moses, Charles I, Lewis Carroll, Henry James, W. Somerset Maugham, Winston Churchill, and Marilyn Monroe among them - have also known the ...
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Overview

Two and a half million Americans - fifty-five million people worldwide - stutter. Though their baffling malady has been subjected to endless analysis for over 2,500 years, most endure it without hope of a cure. The very anticipation of stuttering can dominate a victim's social and emotional life. If the majority suffer in anonymity, famous figures down through the ages - Moses, Charles I, Lewis Carroll, Henry James, W. Somerset Maugham, Winston Churchill, and Marilyn Monroe among them - have also known the isolation and trauma of living with knotted tongues. Indeed, Charles Dickens once aptly described stuttering as "a barrier by which the sufferer feels that the world without is separated from the world within." In this fascinating and original social history, which combines literary scholarship with historical research, Benson Bobrick explores one of the great conundrums of medical history, its impact on the lives of the afflicted, and the astonishing therapeutic practices it has spawned. Demosthenes was obliged to labor up steep inclines with lead plates strapped to his chest and to declaim over the roar of the ocean with pebbles in his mouth; one 16th-century Italian physician prescribed nosedrops combining beetroot and coriander to help "dehumidify" the brain; and a Native American tribe had stutterers spit through a hole in a board "to get the devil out of their throats." At one time or another, stuttering has been popularly traced to childhood trauma; sibling rivalry; suppressed anger; infantile sexual fixations; deformations of the tongue, lips, or jaw; chemical imbalance; strict upbringing; vicious habit; guilt; approach-avoidance conflicts; and so on, and has been treated by hypnosis, drugs, conditioning, electric shock, and of course, psychoanalysis. Mounting clinical evidence today, however, indicates that stuttering is a neurological problem, possibly involving anomalies of sound transmission through the skull. Genetic research suggests a familial
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A former stutterer, Bobrick (Labyrinths of Iron) here offers his perspective on the condition as well as an interesting history of how physicians have treated it. Stuttering, or stammering (the terms are interchangeable clinically), occurs four times more frequently in males and ranges from mild hesitation in speech to severe disability. Hot irons were applied to stutterers' lips in the Middle Ages, and in the mid-19th century, risky tongue operations were performed in failed attempts to effect a cure. Bobrick discusses famous stutterers-Charles Darwin, Henry James, Winston Churchill, Jimmy Stewart-and describes the adverse impact of their condition on their lives. In this century, psychological trauma has often been cited as the cause of stuttering, but recent evidence points to a genetic disorder involving a disturbed auditory function. Therapeutic practices differ, but the author credits a voice feedback system with bringing his condition under control. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Bobrick (East of the Sun: The Epic Conquest and Tragic History of Siberia, LJ 9/15/92) brings to this book more than the talents of an accomplished historian. Like one percent of the world's population, Bobrick stuttered from childhood and thus writes with special insight into the unique stresses and often heroic coping mechanisms that stutterers must live with. He narrates the history of stuttering, from Moses and Demosthenes through some of the most identifiable voices in modern entertainment (Jimmy Stewart, James Earl Jones, and Marilyn Monroe), as well as an astounding number of distinguished writers, including Henry James, Somerset Maugham, and John Updike. He also details the search for a cure, including the excesses of 19th-century surgery and 20th-century psychoanalysis. More recently, stuttering has been identified as a genetically transmitted central nervous system anomaly, and, like Bobrick himself, many stutterers are benefiting from newly developed therapies, though a cure remains elusive. This compassionate treatment of a surprisingly common but little understood disability would be a valuable addition to both public and academic collections.-Kathy Arsenault, Univ. of South Florida Lib., St. Petersburg
Booknews
Presents guidance for treatment providers on how to meet the challenge to develop treatment programs that focus not only on the substance addiction but also on the tangible needs of the homeless--most notably housing, income support, and employment needs. Also published as Journal of Addictive Diseases, v.14, no.4 1995. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568361215
  • Publisher: Kodansha International
  • Publication date: 7/1/1996
  • Series: Kodansha Globe Series
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.67 (w) x 8.41 (h) x 0.66 (d)

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