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Segalla, R. (2017). Prologue: Where Have All the Hysterics Gone?. Psychoanal. Inq., 37(2):62-65.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 37(2):62-65


Prologue: Where Have All the Hysterics Gone?

Rosemary Segalla

In the final chapter of his book, Hysteria: The Disturbing History (2009), Andrew Scull summarizes his view of the current status of hysteria, stating, “diseases disappear” (p. 174) or as his chapter title asks, “L’Hysteria morte?” The author explores the actual elimination of illnesses such as small pox and syphilis, then goes on to say, “More frequently, though, diseases vanish because medical fashions change, understandings of disease alter and previous ways of classifying nature and its pathologies are superseded” (p. 175). He asks,

Where are all the cases of hysteria that once thronged the waiting rooms of nerve doctors—the paralyzes and tics, the phobias and the phantasms, the amnesia and the somnambulism, the hemianesthesia and the histrionics, the inexplicable loss of voice and sight, the emotional turmoil and the faints, and the dramatic muscular contractions that used to culminate in the arc-en-cercle so familiar from the beginning to the end of the nineteenth century? Where are the hysterical invalids, so many of them women, who were so visible then? [p. 175]

Intrigued by his observations and curious in our own right we, the editors, decided to ask this question, thus the issue title, “Contemporary Perspectives on Hysteria,” suggesting that perhaps, in the privacy of our treatment rooms, hysteria is not really dead but living on in twentieth- and twenty-first-century fashion. We invited some colleagues, working from different theoretical perspectives to share their views of hysteria.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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