Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Hardcover)

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Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris By Asti Hustvedt Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

I was in the middle of Medical Muses when the Weinstein scandal first surfaced, and reading this book along with the allegations created the most deeply upsetting, powerful and profound reading experience I have ever had. I was rocked by the sense of history working, directly, to form our present. There are shapes we give to women, and shapes we give to mental illnesses (our own and other people's) - these ideas have a past, and a place where they grew. This is not an easy book to read. But I cannot stress its importance enough. 

— Laurel


A fascinating study of three young female hysterics who shaped our early notions of psychology.

Blanche, Augustine, and Genevieve found themselves in the hysteria ward of the Salpetriere 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 Genevieve? 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.

About the Author

Asti Hustvedt received her PhD in French literature from New York University. She has worked as an editor and translator, and lives in New York City with her family.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780393025606
ISBN-10: 0393025608
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2011
Pages: 386
Language: English