University of Leicester
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Psychological theory in cultural context c.1850-1880.

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posted on 2015-11-19, 09:01 authored by Richard William. Rylance
This thesis examines work by a number of psychological theorists in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. It is organised in four chapters. The first gives an overview of the main issues and arguments in psychology in the mid-century and a detailed account of Henry Holland, a writer representative of the middle ground of opinion. Subsequent chapters detail the development of psychological theory by three writers - Alexander Bain, Herbert Spencer and G. H. Lewes - who were at the forefront of new work. However the broad context of argument is not lost. All three were polymaths who saw themselves not just as theoretical innovators, but as public spokesmen for a new and challenging attitude to the understanding of nature, society and human consciousness. Their commitment to the scientific analysis of human development questioned prevailing conceptions of the spiritual life, and the political and cultural implications of the new theory (as well as the personal commitments and backgrounds of the writers) brought them into conflict with intellectuals who possessed more orthodox outlooks. The detailed examination of psychological theory is therefore integrated with discussion of cultural context. Arguments and polemics are followed through the periodical press and other publications, including some literary material, especially by George Eliot. The intention is to produce an integrated account of the development of a body of theory in a specific cultural context and to demonstrate its growth through both the 'internal' dynamics of the search for answers to the problems set, and the 'external' cultural and social circumstances of the period in which those answers were sought.


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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