Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media

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Columbia University Press, 1998 - Medical - 244 pages
2 Reviews

This provocative and illuminating book charts the persistence of a cultural phenomenon. Tales of alien abduction, chronic fatigue syndrome, Gulf War syndrome, and the resurgence of repressed memories in psychotherapy are just a few of the signs that we live in an age of hysterical epidemics.

As Elaine Showalter demonstrates, the triumphs of the therapeutic society have not been able to prevent the appearance of hysterical disorders, imaginary illnesses, rumor panics, and pseudomemories that mark the end of the millenium.

Like the witch-hunts of the 1690s and the hypnotic cures of the 1980s, the hysterical syndromes of the 1990s reflect the fears and anxieties of a culture on the edge of change. Showalter highlights the full range of contemporary syndromes and draws connections to earlier times and settings, showing that hysterias mutate and are renamed; under the right circumstances, everyone is susceptible.

Today, hysterical epidemics are not spread by viruses or vapors but by stories, narratives Showalter calls hystories that are created "in the interaction of troubled patients and sympathetic therapists... circulated through self-help books, articles in newspapers and magazines, TV talk shows, popular films, the Internet, even literary criticism." Though popular stereotypes of hysteria are still stigmatizing, largely because of their associations with women, many of the most recent manifestations receive respectful and widespread coverage. In an age skeptical of Freud and the power of unconscious desires and conflicts, personal troubles are blamed on everything from devil-worshipping sadists to conspiring governments. The result is the potential for paranoia and ignorance on a massive scale.

Skillfully surveying the condition of hysteria -- its causes, cures, famous patients, and doctors -- in the twentieth century, Showalter also looks at literature, drama, and feminist representations of the hysterical. Hysterias, she shows, are always with us, a kind of collective coping mechanism for changing times; all that differs are names and labels, and at times of crisis, individual hysterias can become contagious.

Insightful and sensitive, filled with fascinating new perspectives on a culture saturated with syndromes of every sort, Hystories is a gift of good sense from one of our best critics.

  

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Hystories: hysterical epidemics and modern culture

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The ends of centuries have historically given rise to increased incidents of hysterical epidemics. Literary critic and medical historian Showalter has written a challenging and insightful history of ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Not recommended. A very biased book.
better resources :
An Empirical Look at the Ritual Abuse Controversy
http://members.aol.com/ritualabuselinks/RA_evidence.htm
List of references on SRA
http://members.aol.com/smartnews/SRA_references_list.htm
 

Contents

The Hysterical Hot Zone
3
Defining Hysteria
14
The History of Hysteria The Great Doctors
30
Politics Patients and Feminism
49
Hysterical Men
62
CULTURES
79
Hysterical Narratives
81
Hysteria and the Histrionic
100
Gulf War Syndrome
133
Recovered Memory
144
Multiple Personality Disorder
159
Satanic Ritual Abuse
171
Alien Abduction
189
The Crucible
202
Notes
209
Index
233

EPIDEMICS
113
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
115

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About the author (1998)

Elaine Showalter is Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities and professor of English at Princeton University. Hailed by the New York Times as "one of the country's most renowned feminist critics," she is the author of many books, including The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980 and is a frequent contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books.

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