A volume in the series, Ideas in Psychoanalysis (Series Editor, Ivan Ward). This series explains psychoanalytic concepts, their relevance to everyday life, and their ability to illuminate the nature of human society and culture. Published by Icon Books
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.
But hysteria may well have the last laugh. It soon disappeared from consulting rooms and diagnostic manuals and started reappearing, 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.
Julia Borossa is a writer and lecturer who is particularly interested in the histories, cultures and politics of psychoanalysis. She is the editor of Sandor Ferenczi: Selected Writings (Penguin, 1999).
from the publisher's website