Author(s): Julia Borossa
In the nineteenth century, hysteria was a disorder that doctors – frustrated and titillated in equal measure – were unable to pin down. Its sufferers, principally but not exclusively women, exhibited outlandish, changeable symptoms which eluded any physical explanation. Young Sigmund Freud was inspired by this spectacle, and psychoanalysis itself became his response to the challenge posed by his hysterical patients.
Although hysteria soon started disappearing from consulting rooms and diagnostic manuals, it has since reappeared, trickster-like, under different names – shell-shock, eating disorders, multiple personality syndrome. As this book shows, the subversive questions that hysteria raised about the human condition over 100 years ago never ceased to resonate with artists and critics who were concerned with the negotiation of power and powerlessness, the nature of desire and fulfilment, the bodily limits of sexual identities.