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Records of people experiencing verbal hallucinations or hearing voices can be found throughout history. This book of traces such reports through almost 2800 years in order to understand the experience and look at ways in which its meaning has changed or remained the same. Through six cases of historical and contemporary voice hearers, the authors seek to demonstrate how the experience has metamorphosed from being a sign of virtue to a sign of insanity, signalling such illnesses as schizophrenia or dissociation. They argue that the experience is interpreted by the voice hearer according to cultural expectations conveyed through language, and is therefore best studied as a matter of language use. Controversially, they conclude that hearing voices is an ordinary human experience which is unfortunately either mystified or pathologized.
Ivan Leuder is Reader in Psychology at the University of Manchester. Philip Thomas is a Consultant Psychiatrist with Bradford Community Trust and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bradford.