Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris

Medical Muses Hysteria in Nineteenth Century Paris A fascinating study of three young female hysterics who shaped our early notions of psychology Blanche Augustine and Genevi ve found themselves in the hysteria ward of the Salpetri re Hospital in

  • Title: Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris
  • Author: Asti Hustvedt
  • ISBN: 9780393025606
  • Page: 305
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A fascinating study of three young female hysterics who shaped our early notions of psychology.Blanche, Augustine, and Genevi ve found themselves in the hysteria ward of the Salpetri re Hospital in 1870s Paris, where their care was directed by the prominent neurologist Jean Martin Charcot They became medical celebrities every week, eager crowds arrived at the hospital toA fascinating study of three young female hysterics who shaped our early notions of psychology.Blanche, Augustine, and Genevi ve found themselves in the hysteria ward of the Salpetri re Hospital in 1870s Paris, where their care was directed by the prominent neurologist Jean Martin Charcot They became medical celebrities every week, eager crowds arrived at the hospital to observe their symptoms they were photographed, sculpted, painted, and transformed into characters in novels The remarkable story of their lives as patients in the clinic is a strange amalgam of intimate details and public exposure, science and religion, medicine and the occult, hypnotism, love, and theater But who were Blanche, Augustine, and Genevi ve What role did they play in their own peculiar form of stardom And what exactly were they suffering from Hysteria with its dramatic seizures, hallucinations, and reenactments of past traumas may be an illness of the past, but the notions of femininity that lie behind it offer insights into disorders of the present.

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      Published :2019-02-09T13:35:50+00:00

    1 thought on “Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris”

    1. I had to skim a lot of thisThe story of three women diagnosed with 'hysteria' and what probably was 'wrong' with them. There are photographs of said women and I just want to say this about thatI have similar photos of my great-grandmothers, and other women from the late 1800' and early 1900's and boy, they look the same. Hands next to faces, cherub-like grins, eyes up to heaven, etc. I know this was standard for the time, but if you put these next to the hysterical women in the book, small diffe [...]

    2. First off, the author is the sister of the wife of my favorite living novelist! Small world. Second, I was assigned this book in a psychoanalytic study group.Thirdly, I find the history of science, the history of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy fascinating. I'm interested in France and French culture.This book is well written and interesting enough. I wondered at her tracking down some "research" minutia that I didn't really worry about, at times, but she was a hound dog on the scent of a [...]

    3. This book reads like watching a really, really good documentary. Material that could have ended up being a bit dry read easily. I love that there doesn't seem to be a particular agenda on the author's part and that they give space to all sorts of viewpoints and acknowledge other people's/institution's possible (or overt) agendas. Interesting content.

    4. An interesting history of the study of hysteria at the Salpetriere Hospital in Paris. The author details the treatment of 3 women, portrayed as both victims and participants in Charcot's methods, or some would say, experiments. If you work in health care it's hard to not feel outraged at the treatment of these traumatised women - but then this would be to apply today's knowledge to a time when psychiatry was still so very young.

    5. This book is really interesting, although I sometimes found it difficult to figure out exactly what Hustvedt was arguing. She seems to waiver between arguing that hysteria was indeed a "real" illness while also arguing that it was a manifestation of socially constructed/suggested symptoms. I guess in the end she really is arguing for both points--that is, that these women were suffering from a real illness, which was manifested in symptoms that were medically acceptable. Ultimately, there is sti [...]

    6. Medical Muses is a book that explores the treatment and study of hysterics by Charcot in 19th Century France, but also shows a parallel to the climate surrounding treatment of similar conditions today. Asti Hustvedt's research shows her passion for the subject, she goes above and beyond in her researches to present the truth regarding the famous hysterics of Salpetriere Hospital as much as possible. She presents every aspect of both patients and doctors delving into their personal histories and [...]

    7. I picked this up from my local bookstore on a whim as it looked interesting. I've read a previous book about the development of the vibrator as a treatment for hysteria but had never come across the events occurring in France back in the 1860s. I'm familiar with Charcot, Tourette and some of the others, though didn't realise they all worked together in this way at the Salpetriere. I didn't get on with the style to start with (it reads a little like a more adept essay) but soon got wrapped up in [...]

    8. Medical Muses is a fascinating exploration of the darkness of the human mind and the bizarre lengths one scientist--Jean-Martin Charcot--went to exploring it in the famous Parisian medical establishment Salpêtrière Hospital. Already a famous researcher and clinician, Charcot took on the task of documenting and exhibiting "hysteria" in the final decades of the 19th century. Hustvedt focuses on him and three of his prime, "star," patients--Blanche, Augustine, and Geneviève--as a means of descri [...]

    9. Interesting read in which the author argues that hysteria was a legitimate disease. The reason, she says, we don't see this diagnosis any more is because the symptoms were influenced by the culture, and these women were expressing their mental illness and powerlessness in ways that were expected or encouraged. The primary symptoms were catalepsy (the women turned into a wax doll) lethargy (the women went into a sleep-like state that rendered them helpless), somnambulism (the women would hallucin [...]

    10. Clearly written and well researched, this book is certainly worth reading. Hustvedt dug up interesting information about three case studies of "hysterical" women in Charcot's famous hospital in Paris. She is very smart and thoughtful and she makes a good case for the blurry lines between medicine, religion, the paranormal, and the emerging field of psychology. As another reviewer noted, though, the book could use a better structure that wove the themes together into a more coherent argument. The [...]

    11. Really interesting look at historical cases of a disease that technically doesn't exist anymore or can be considered the earliest recognition of mental health awareness. A little repetitive in the case studies but the photography included was fascinating and there could have been more.

    12. This is such a hard book to review because my immediate thought after finishing it was 'this is the most mental thing I've ever read'. On one hand, of course, the further back you go in history to look at the treatment of women and mental illness, the more appalling it's bound to be, yet on the other hand, I was continually horrified at how the women being treated for their conditions were turned into exhibits or the starlets of hysteria by doctors who were more like directors. Still, Hustvedt m [...]

    13. I was vaguely looking around for a book that would enlighten me on the subject of Jean-Martin Charcot and his work on hysteria at the Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris in the second half of the 19th century. As luck would have it, I came across Asti Hustvedt’s “Medical Muses” and it was just perfect : a meticulously researched, well written und totally fascinating account of a disease that no longer exists as such. It basically lived and died with the famous neurologist (from the 1870s to 1893 [...]

    14. Well researched book. This book is about a medical condition that in late 1800s was called hysteria. It tells about 3 women who supposedly suffer from this condition. And it tells about the doctor (dr. Charcot) who oversaw their treatment.

    15. An interesting read though a little long winded at times. I wasn't a huge fan of the decidedly feminist tone it took towards the end but that's just me.

    16. The book: Medical Muses: Hysteria in 19th-Century ParisThe author: Asti Hustvedt, scholar of French literatureThe subject: The lives of three women treated for hysteria by neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris.Why I chose it: I'm interested in the history of medicine and women's issues and this lies at the intersection of those topics.The rating: Three out of five starsWhat I thought of it: I was a bit disappointed in this book, perhaps because it seemed so p [...]

    17. This book sets out to give a fuller description of three of the 'hysterics' that Charcot studied: Blanche, Augustine and Geneviève. It sounds like Hustvedt wanted to learn more about these women's lives outside of the Salpêtrière. She didn't find out much, but did manage to give a much fuller rendering of their lives in the Salpêtrière than I have read before. For that alone this book is worth reading. She does, however, describe many things that are tangential to these lives of these women [...]

    18. Simultaneously fascinating and horrifying, as medical histories are wont to be. Overall it's a thought-provoking study of the idiosyncratic but culturally motivated ways that illness appears in the body, as seen through the very particular type of hysteria cultivated by Jean-Martin Charcot in the Salpetriere--and how individual, internal identity's external manifestations are distorted through, to be slightly glib about it, expectation.Also, the pictures. Jeez, the pictures. Plan to be mesmerize [...]

    19. I thought the topic was fascinating, but the book was poorly written. Hustvedt arranged the book as sequential biographies of three hysterics, whose experiences in the Salpetriere were so similar that the book was very repetitive. Even within narratives, certain points were unnecessarily repeated, and even the same wording was used, so it read as clumsy and poorly edited. The epilogue, a few pages on psychosomatic disorders such as Gulf War Syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc and the role of [...]

    20. I found this book fascinating even if the argument was a little convoluted at times. Well-written and well-researched, it could have been edited more carefully as there was considerable repetition and disorganization of content. As someone who works in mental health, I thought the concluding chapter on the application of the notion of hysteria to present day maladies quite insightful although I dispute the suggestion that Parkinson's disease is in the same category of psychosomatic complaints as [...]

    21. Some interesting parts, but overall I couldn't help feeling that I was reading someone's PhD thesis. This was essentially a biography of three women and two doctors. Perhaps my expectations were wrong, but there was little exploration of what the hysteria suffered by these women would have been defined as using modern diagnostic categories, or how we still have culturally and socially defined illnesses today that probably won't stand the scrutiny of time. There was lip service to this in the las [...]

    22. Not precisely as billed: this is more a study of the Salpetriere Hospital and how they treated hysteric patients, rather than biographies of three specific women. There is little insight or information on how the women themselves felt about their situation, illness or treatment, which the book description had led me to expect.That said, it was an interesting read that would appeal to anyone with an interest in medical history.

    23. This was even more fascinating than I had anticipated and brought up medically-related topics relevant to the present day that I hadn't considered before. Hustvedt also writes in a beautifully structured way which made reading this book both informative and a quick read as everything flowed very smoothly. Her points were well supported, and her citations from the doctors and patients were enlightening to her message and sometimes enjoyably comical to a present-day audience.

    24. It was very interesting The way the hysterics seemed to perform for the doctors Very blurry lines between what is illness and what is not. And at the very end the author just touches on hysteria today transformed into syndroms and disorders. I think we would all do better with a more nuanced view of mental health.

    25. Interesting subject but the book is too verbose, repetitive, and frankly, boring. I read about one-third of the book, flipped through the rest, read the highlights and that was enough. Not worth the time to finish it.

    26. A fascinating read about three French women labelled hysterics back in the day - a diagnosis which was once considered quite real but now have all but disappeared - and the doctor(s) who tried to understand them.

    27. I got bogged down in the details of hysteria and didn't get beyond the first quarter of the book. I'm weak!

    28. An interesting treatise on hysterics in the 19th Century and questions whether their maladies were accentuated by their observation and documentation.

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