At the end of the eighteenth century, professional and lay audiences alike negotiated the lines between mental health and disorder, questioning whether criminal behavior, for example, laid within medicine’s jurisdiction. This essay examines the role of literature in developing a “diagnostic logic” that trained readers in evolving forms of mental surveillance. First, it shows how physicians like Benjamin Rush relied on popular and literary sources to create new diagnostic categories, citing newspaper crime reports and Shakespearean plays as medical evidence and encouraging readers to interpret familiar behavior through the lens of pathology. Next, I turn to Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (1798) to demonstrate how the novel’s suspicion of empiricism could paradoxically heighten readers’ desire to sort and predict behavior. Soliciting readers’ interest through scenes of gothic horror, the novel concludes by urging readers to apply their diagnostic skills in more mundane social settings. Moreover, unlike Rush’s straightforward assessment of pathology’s mitigating impact on accountability, Brown’s novel invites readers to reach their own conclusions on the ethical implications of diagnosis. Ultimately, I argue, texts like Wieland did not simply work alongside medical tracts to authorize the surveillance of an increasing number of pathologized behaviors, but deepened readers’ engagement in doing so.

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