Edited by Anouchka Grose
Hysteria, one of the most diagnosed conditions in human history, is also one of the most problematic. Can it even be said to exist at all?
Since the earliest medical texts people have had something to say about ‘feminine complaints’. Over the centuries, theorisations of the root causes have lurched from the physiological to the psychological to the socio-political. Thanks to its dual association with femininity and with fakery, the notion of hysteria inevitably provokes questions about women, men, sex, bodies, minds, culture, happiness and unhappiness.
To some, it may seem extraordinary that such a contested diagnosis could continue to merit any mention whatsoever. Surely we all now know better. Nonetheless, after being discarded by the American Psychiatric Association in 1952, it has continued to make its appearance, not least in later editions of the DSM, in the form of ‘hysterical neurosis (conversion type)’ or craftily rebranded as ‘histrionic personality disorder’. In contrast with the old-fashioned cliché of the cantankerous malingerer, Jacques Lacan has associated the hysteric with the scientist and seeker after truth. Hysteria Today is a collection of essays whose purpose is to reopen the case for hysteria and to see what relevance, if any, the term may have within contemporary clinical practice.
"The hysteric's questions 'What do I want? What do others want from me? What is my place in society?' are emerging with a vengeance in our neo-liberal times. Social changes and new technologies are shaping the neurotic symptoms people suffer from. This collection of essays finally gives us important insight into the way the malaise of civilization affects the malaise of the individual and vice versa. To understand hysteria today is an important step in figuring out social and political deadlocks in contemporary life. Anyone who is trying to understand why there is so much unhappiness in times that glorify choice, efficiency and satisfaction, should dive into this important book."
- Renata Salecl, Birkbeck College, London, author of The Tyranny of Choice
"This is an essential book for anyone interested in the ways we all struggle with language. Every writer in this dazzling, scholarly collection of essays has taught me something new about how hysteria continues to haunt the 21st century. Hysteria, like subjectivity, did not die in the 1890s. Hysteria is dead! Long live hysteria!"
- Deborah Levy, author of Swimming Home (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize)
'An excellent resource for anyone who is interested in hysteria or psychoanalysis.'
Kathryn Lafferty, BMJ Blogs.