History of Medicine (17-19th cent.), Philosophy of Science, History of Knowledge
Narratives and Politics of a Diagnosis: The Construction and Circulation of the Category of Hysteria in France and England 1730-1820
My work examines how perceptions of hysteria are displaced and recalled across literary, medical and political texts a century before the advent of psychoanalysis. It analyzes processes in the production of knowledge, forms of narration, and modes for the circulation of theories and imaginings. Movement away from theories of supernatural possession and the ascribing of hysteria’s tension to individuals overlap with the birth of the modern subject through emerging conceptions of interiority and Enlightenment visions of society. Theorizations of nervous illness also participate in the Occident’s perception of itself and the development of the field of anthropology. Tension figures prominently in the very writing and narration of hysteria. Literary and medical texts express and transmit tension to readers in their discussions of the malady. Detailed descriptions of characters’ crises and metaphorical renderings of the illness serve to seduce, frighten, and fascinate, drawing readers into operations of interpretation and insinuation.