By Andrew Scull
The 19th century turns out to were packed with hysterical ladies - or so that they have been clinically determined. the place are they now? The very affliction not exists. during this interesting account, Andrew Scull tells the tale of anxiety - an sickness that disappeared now not via scientific endeavour, yet via transforming into realizing and cultural change.
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Extra resources for Hysteria : the disturbing history
Terror, anger, distrust, and other hateful passions”—were both crucial to the genesis of hysteria, and central elements in its course. And many of its sufferers exhibited an extraordinary emotional lability: “All is caprice. ”9 Yet none of these characteristics should come as a surprise, since, in crucial ways (ways that remained opaque and hard to specify), the nervous system was coming to be seen as the interface between the material and the psychic realms. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century physicians rarely laid hands on their patients, relying on head, not hand, as the basis of their diagnostic acumen, and leaving the stigmatizing manual tasks that were a necessary part of any direct examination 33 hyster ia: the biogr aphy of the patient’s body to the lower-status surgeons.
For the various manifestations “of nervous diseases of all kinds, as Spleen, Vapours, Hypochondriacal and Hysterical Distempers” were the unlucky province of the social elite: the urbane, the cultivated, the reﬁned, the delicate. Sensibility, after all, was a quality of the civilized—indeed of the quality. ”5 By contrast, the more reﬁned, delicate nervous systems of the elite put them at risk of falling into hysterics and related nervous states, for it was those “of the liveliest and quickest natural Parts, whose Faculties are the most bright and spiritual, whose Genius is most keen and penetrating, and particularly where there is the most delicate Sensation and Taste,”6 who were most prone to such disorders.
Foreign delicacies, imported to stimulate their jaded palates, encouraged them to overeat, while their sedentary lives left them bereft of exercise and deprived of sleep. Small wonder so many of them fell victim to nervous complaints: convulsions, faintings, dislocated speech, despondency, screaming, silence, laughter, or tears without apparent cause. A number of his colleagues had made much of the claim that hysteria was a real illness. ”11 One of his most eminent colleagues had once conﬁded to him that he had seen Persons labouring under the most exquisite Pains of Gout, Stone, Colick, Cancer, and all the other Distempers that can tear the human Machin, yet he had observed them all willing to prolong their wretched Being, and scarce any ready to lay down cheerfully the Load of Clay .
Hysteria : the disturbing history by Andrew Scull