Medical Muses

Medical Muses : Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris

3.58 (232 ratings by Goodreads)
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Hysteria as a disease no longer exists, but in the nineteenth century hysteria was thought to affect half of all women in one of its myriad forms. In 1862 the famous and infamous Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, under the reign of renowned neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, became the focal point for study of the mysterious illness. Physicians could find no cause, which meant a cure was not possible, but Charcot concentrated on treating the symptoms; with hypnosis, gongs, tuning forks, piercing and the evocation of demons and saints. Charcot's studies at the hospital were controversial, and brought him into conflict with the church as well as his colleagues. But despite this, Charcot was known as hysteria's ultimate authority and his experiments became both a fascinating and a fashionable spectacle. The women were photographed, sculpted, painted and sketched, and demonstrations attracted eager crowds of medical students, physicians, writers, artists and socialites.Medical Muses tells the stories of Blanche, Augustine and Genevieve, young women who found themselves in Charcot's ward as medical celebrities. But who were they? What were they suffering from? And what role did they play in their own curious celebrity? The stories of these women, and in fact, of all of the women institutionalised for hysteria in the Salpetriere, have never been fully told. Theirs is a strange tale of science and ideology, medicine and the occult, of hypnotism, sadism, love and theatre. Combing hospital records, municipal archives, memoirs and letters, Asti Hustvedt uncovers fascinating new material and sheds new light on a crucial moment in psychiatric more

Product details

  • Hardback | 384 pages
  • 144 x 218 x 36mm | 498.95g
  • Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Illustrations, ports.
  • 0747576335
  • 9780747576334
  • 405,034

Review quote

`This is a riveting study of the great iconic stars of the Salpetriere, as famous in the belle epoque for their hysteria as celebrities today are for their excesses. Asti Hustvedt probes the records to bring to life the stories of Blanche, Augustine and Genevieve as well as their brilliant doctor, Jean Martin Charcot. In the process, she gives their historic diagnosis new contemporary meaning' * Lisa Appignanesi * `Medical Muses rescues from neglect the fascinating lives of these celebrity sufferers who became the face of Hysteria. With rich historical detail, Asti Hustvedt lucidly recreates the lost world of these women, who spoke in a language of sudden paralyses, twitching dances, and robotic actions, and for a while, had all of Europe listening' * George Makari, author of Revolution in Mind: the Creation of Psychoanalysis. *show more

About Asti Hustvedt

Asti Hustvedt is an independent scholar who has written extensively on hysteria and literature. She has a Ph.D in French literature from New York University, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a Phi Betta Kapa Fellowship. She is the editor of The Decadent Reader: Fiction, Fantasy and Perversion from Fin-de-Siecle France and has published many translations. She lives in New York more

Rating details

232 ratings
3.58 out of 5 stars
5 17% (39)
4 40% (92)
3 31% (71)
2 11% (25)
1 2% (5)

Our customer reviews

Previously I had no idea about this era where Hysteria was a genuine medical condition of interest. It was insightful to understand what these women were dealing with and how it presented as a 'medical condition'. Although it sounded like they were products of their own environment, just trying to survive through some terrible experiences in their younger more
by Heidi Jennings
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