Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris

Monday, August 15, 2011

Asti Hustvedt tells about the three young female hysterics who shaped our early notions of psychology. Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris  tells the story of the lives of Blanche, Augustine, and Geneviève, patients in the hysteria ward of the Salpetrière Hospital in 1870s Paris. Hustvedt also investigates what exactly they were suffering from.


Asti Hustvedt

Comments [6]

Ed from Larchmont

I saw a recent movie I think called 'Lourdes' in which Charcot made a brief appearance as claiming that the cures at Lourdes were the result of hysteria. Charcot, of course, MS, etc., a great scientist. But I wondered if this was historical and you verified that it is.

It reminds me of the woman interviewed at Lourdes who had come with cancer of the bone in her knee, eaten it away some, and the she had been healed and the bone had grown over the area.

Or it reminds me of the story of Zola, who went to Lourdes to disprove it. He was granted to see a healing of a woman who had cancer in her disfigured face, consumption, and ulcers on her legs. She went into the baths and came out healed completely. Zola replied 'To me, she is still disfigured'. Zola wrote the novel 'Lourdes', and in that the woman goes home and relapses. The physician at Lourdes confronted Zola and said that he had misrepresented the case, since the woman hadn't relapsed, and Zola replied 'I am an artist and can do what I wish with the material'. (cf Forgotten Heritage, Europe and Our Lady, EWTN series, program on Lourdes).

Aug. 16 2011 08:04 AM
Allstonian from Boston

Apparently it used to be a gunpowder factory:

Aug. 15 2011 02:23 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I'm curious about the name of the hospital. "Salpetriere" means "saltpeter." Was this chemical used there? Or was the hospital just located near a place where it was mined?

Aug. 15 2011 01:24 PM
opal from NYC

In the 1930s, the Surrealists embraced Chacot's vision of hysteria and equated it with amour fou--a state of extreme excitement. Max Ernst included images from Charcot;s studies in his collage novel "Une Semaine de Bonte."

Aug. 15 2011 01:18 PM
Dorothy from Manhattan

It happens that I'm reading "The Greater Journey" and I've just finished the chapter on Medicine. This fits nicely.
Interesting program today.

Aug. 15 2011 01:18 PM
Larry from Brooklyn

The promos for this segment keep referring to "early notions of psychology." The work of Charcot at the Salpetriere hospital is psychiatric. That is, he was interested in defining types of mental illness, attempting to understand its "types", and even its treatment. However, 19th century psychology was not very interested in these issues and, indeed, some prominent psychologists at the time rejected any inclusion of Charcot's work in psychology. Please do not conflate psychology and psychiatry although they are, of course, related when it comes to mental illness.

Aug. 15 2011 12:24 PM

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