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Hysteria: The Biography

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Overview


The nineteenth century seems to have been full of hysterical women--or so they were diagnosed. Where are they now? The very disease no longer exists. In this fascinating account, Andrew Scull tells the story of hysteria--an illness that disappeared not through medical endeavor, but through growing understanding and cultural change. The lurid history of hysteria makes fascinating reading. Charcot's clinics showed off flamboyantly "hysterical" patients taking on sexualized poses, and among the visiting professionals was one Sigmund Freud. Scull discusses the origins of the idea of hysteria, the development of a neurological approach by John Sydenham and others, hysteria as a fashionable condition, and its growth from the 17th century. Subsequently, the "disease" declined and eventually disappeared.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Neat and well-structured, written in a lively and stimulating style. It is much more than a superior work of historical systhesis. Scull expertly traces the story of hysteria as concept, diagnosis, cultural expression and lived experience, from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first, and sheds new light and offers new insights throughout. As an introduction to the turbulent and contested history of this most mutable but strangely enduring of disorders, Scull's book could not be bettered." -- Metapsychology Online Reviews

"Scull's survey provides a welcome addition to the sizable historical literature on hysteria and nervous illness, and this slim volume manages to cover its topic well, placing outbreaks of hysteria in their social, cultural and medical-historical contexts, and highlighting major trends and turning points in the history of psychiatry, all in fewer than 200 pages. It offers an excellent introduction to the subject for a general audience, and its bibliography usefully guides interested readers on to more in-depth exploration of particular subjects. Finally, this work will provide a great service to teachers of undergraduate courses in the history of medicine and psychiatry, and students will appreciate that Scull writes with lucidity, grace and wit." --Medical History

"Lively and readable." -- he British Journal for the History of Science

Listed in Science Book News

"This is dark stuff, but fascinating stuff. These four biographies of diseases go far beyond questions of biology or medical practice; they talk politics, sex and class, faith, how to plan a healthy world and how to be a proper woman or a proper man. Strangest and most fascinating of all is the way you keep glimpsing whole societies reflected in the surgery, from the drinking water to the high philosophy."--Scotsman.com

"Andrew Scull's sharp and witty biography of hysteria, part of Oxford University Press's new "Biographies of diseases" series, explores the history of a condition that was once practically a fashion statement, so strongly linked was it with breeding and social superiority." --New Scientist

"Utterly enthralling... Scull plots the formless character of hysteria as it evolved and shifted to fit cultural expectations across time."--British Medical Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199560967
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/8/2009
  • Series: Biographies of Diseases Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Scull is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at UC San Diego.

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations vii

Prologue: Suffocation of the Mother 1

1 Mysteria 6

2 Neurologie 24

3 An English Malady? 43

4 Reflexly Mad 62

5 American Nervousness 84

6 A Hysterical Circus 104

7 Freudian Hysterics 131

8 The Wounds of War 152

9 L'Hystérie morte? 174

Glossary 191

Notes 197

Further reading 211

Index 217

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