Hysteria in Literature

hysteria

hysteria (hĬstĕr´ēə), in psychology, a disorder commonly known today as conversion disorder, in which a psychological conflict is converted into a bodily disturbance. It is distinguished from hypochondria by the fact that its sufferers do not generally confuse their condition with real, physical disease. Conversion disorder is usually found in patients with immature, histrionic personalities who are under great stress. Women are affected twice as frequently as men. Symptoms, which are largely symbolic and which relieve the patient's anxiety, include limb paralysis, blindness, or convulsive seizures. The specific physical disorder usually does not correspond to the anatomy; e.g., an entire limb may be paralyzed rather than a specific group of muscles. The person may also appear to be unconcerned about the illness, a condition French psychiatrist Pierre Janet called la belle indifference (1929). At the end of the 19th cent., great advances were made in the understanding and cure of hysteria by the recognition of its psychogenic nature and by the use of hypnotism to influence the hysteric patient, who is known to have a high degree of suggestibility. The Austrian physician Josef Breuer, the French psychologists J. M. Charcot and Pierre Janet, and Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud were pioneers in the investigation of hysteria through hypnosis. Freud concluded that hysterical symptoms were symbolic representations of a repressed unconscious event, accompanied by strong emotions that could not be adequately expressed or discharged at the time. Instead, the strong effect associated with the event was diverted into the wrong somatic channels (conversion), and the physical symptom resulted. Psychoanalysis has had reasonable success in helping patients suffering from conversion disorder.

See A. Roy, ed., Hysteria (1982); E. Showalter, Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture (1997).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Ventriloquized Bodies: Narratives of Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century France
Janet Beizer.
Cornell University Press, 1994
Telling Tales: The Hysteric's Seduction in Fiction and Theory
Katherine Cummings.
Stanford University, 1991
Proust, the Body, and Literary Form
Michael R. Finn.
Cambridge University Press, 1999
Reading the Symptoms: An Exploration of Repression and Hysteria in Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein.'
Hobbs, Colleen.
Studies in the Novel, Vol. 25, No. 2, Summer 1993
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Peculiar Sanity of War: Hysteria in the Literature of World War I
Celia Malone Kingsbury.
Texas Tech University Press, 2002
Katherine Mansfield's "Bliss":
.
Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 35, No. 3, Summer 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Sexing the Mind: Nineteenth-Century Fictions of Hysteria
Evelyne Ender.
Cornell University Press, 1995
A New Hystery: History and Hysteria in Toni Morrison's Beloved
Parker, Emma.
Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 47, No. 1, Spring 2001
Confusions of Guilt and Complications of Evil: Hysteria and the High Price of Love at Mansfield Park (1)
Duane, Anna Mae.
Studies in the Novel, Vol. 33, No. 4, Winter 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Hysteria, Sexual Assault, and the Military: The Trial of Emile De la Ronciere and 'The French Lieutenant's Woman.'
Shields, Ellen F.
Mosaic (Winnipeg), Vol. 28, No. 3, September 1995
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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