Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830-1890

By Jenny Taylor; Sally Shuttleworth | Go to book overview

2. The Uterine Economy

(a) Hysteria

HYSTERIA

John Conolly, in John Forbes, Alexander Tweedie, and John Conolly (eds.), The Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine: Comprising the Nature and Treatment of Diseases, Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Medical Jurisprudence, 4 vols. ( London: Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, 1833-5), ii. 568-9, 572-3, 575-6.

Conolly, one of the pioneers of moral management in the treatment of the insane, here draws on developments in French psychiatry to argue that hysteria was caused by an undue excitement of the nervous system. He rejects the ancients' theory that hysteria was the product of a wandering womb, since the various forms of the disorder clearly suggested various causes, and men as well as women could suffer. Nonetheless, he believes that women are the primary sufferers due to stresses placed on the uterine economy; such stresses were not merely physiological in origin, but were also caused by the social requirements for emotional repression in women. E. J. Georget, the author of the article on which Conolly draws quite largely, was a pupil of the eminent French psychiatrist, J. E. D. Esquirol (see Section IV).

That certain states of the uterus, causing peculiar sympathies in different parts of the frame, are the causes of hysteria, is an opinion of great antiquity, and has been supported by nearly every observer from the time of Hippocrates, who has often been quoted as saying that a woman's best remedy in this disorder is to marry and bear children. Whoever considers the sympathies excited by the changes which the uterine system undergoes at puberty and during pregnancy, and at the cessation of the catamenia; the altered form and character of the young female; the capricious wishes and taste, or longings of the state of uterogestation; and the morbid actions of what is called the 'change of life;' will without difficulty admit that the hysterical phenomena, bodily and mental, may very probably be called forth by peculiar conditions of the same dominating system in

-184-

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Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830-1890
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction xiii
  • List of Illustrations xix
  • Section I Reading the Mind 1
  • 1. Physiognomy 8
  • 2. Phrenology 25
  • 3. Mesmerism 49
  • Section II The Unconscious Mind and the Workings of Memory 65
  • 1. Associationism and Physiological Psychology 73
  • 2. Dreams 102
  • 3. Double Consciousness 123
  • 4. Memory 141
  • Section III The Sexual Body 163
  • 1. Defining Womanhood 169
  • 2. the Uterine Economy 184
  • 3. Masculinity and the Control of Sexuality 209
  • Section IV Insanity and Nervous Disorders 225
  • 1. Moral Management and the Rise of the Psychiatrist 231
  • Section V Heredity, Degeneration, and Modern Life 285
  • 1. Nervous Economies: Morbidity and Modernity 293
  • 2. Concepts of Descent and Degeneration 303
  • 3. Inherited Legacies: Idiocy and Criminality 322
  • 4. Childhood 335
  • 5. Race and Hybridity 352
  • 6 Sex in Mind and Education 373
  • Notes on Authors 389
  • Select Bibliography 413
  • Index 423
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