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Coltart, N. (1995). Body, Blood and Sexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of St. Francis's Stigmata and their Historical Context.: By Nitza Yarom. Studies in History and Culture, Volume 4. Edited by Norman Cantor. New York: Peter Lang. 1992. Pp. 148.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:862-863.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:862-863

Body, Blood and Sexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of St. Francis's Stigmata and their Historical Context.: By Nitza Yarom. Studies in History and Culture, Volume 4. Edited by Norman Cantor. New York: Peter Lang. 1992. Pp. 148.

Review by:
Nina Coltart

An attractive feature of this unusual short book is that it takes hysteria seriously. It is generally assumed in psychiatry today that the prevalence of hysteria, which gave Freud so much of his material for creating the foundations of psychoanalysis, has greatly reduced during the twentieth century; the understanding of character disorder, with special reference to narcissism, has taken the dominant place in the literature. But whether hysteria has really declined is open to doubt. In fact, it is hysterical manifestations that have changed, owing to several major sociological trends, such as improvement in the roles and opportunities available to women. Hysteria has also suffered by entering the vernacular as a pejorative term; its loss as a rich and informative diagnosis has left psychiatry the poorer. Psychoanalysis, so often attacked from many angles today, can be said to have held the corner for hysteria, in spite of the reduction in its dramatic psychophysical symptoms such as conversion. This book, which skilfully weaves together a scholarly approach to mediaeval religious history with fluent handling of psychoanalytic theory, does much to redress the balance.

St. Francis of Assisi, who developed the stigmata in 1224, two years before his death, is the first authentically recorded case of this kind. Since then, there have been about three hundred, predominantly Catholic women. Sixty-one have been made saints, though none since the late eighteenth century. During the

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