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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: From Wandering Womb to the Loss of Masculinity: Hysteria and its Cultural, Political and Medical Framing in the Nineteen (PGHC11492)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores cultural and social history of madness, roughly focusing on the period from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century as the time of the reappearance and anew reframing of hysteria. This course traces the historical rise of hysteria as a medical, societal and political category. It examines how medicine understood itself as one of the moral pillars of society, and what was its role by production of knowledge, gender and societal norms.
Course description In a discussion between Wilhelm and Ubertino (Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose) about the Minorites and a sectarian aberration of some of their members, Wilhelm stated: "often the step between ecstatic vision and sinful frenzy is very brief (...) because they are always born from an extreme igniting of the will." But if this boundary between the enthusiasm of a vision and the insanity of a sin is such fluid and barely perceptible, so how, one might ask, can a norm and a deviation, normality and pathology, freedom and be recognized and safeguarded, who and how should decide, what do we need the category of "madness" and "hysteria" for and last but not least what is meant by "mental illness" and "mental health"?

Already in the pre-modern times the question about this passion of the will - whether a vision or a sin, whether an antithesis of reason or its complement, its loss or rather its contradiction - has become a constant object of philosophical, cultural, medical and historical discourses. This was especially the case with hysteria that has become one of the most influential, controversial and heated debated maladies, and after a long history of medical framing, reappeared as something of a professional obsession in the nineteenth century, to disappear in the twentieth century.

The perception of insanity - depending on the spatial, temporal and historical dimension, whether in the figure of a leper, a hysteric, a criminal, a homosexual, a shell-shock patient, or a political or religious dissident - reveals more about the descriptive person than about the descriptive subject. It reveals the societal fears, constrictions, ideas of the respective social formation as well as political historical changes and power relations. It reveals both the repressed and the desired. This changeable image and "nature" of hysteria will be focused in this course, and examined as a part of societal, political, economic and cultural changes of the long 19th century. We are going to examine the changeable historical framing of hysteria, its societal and cultural impact as well as the changeable historical references and diverse theoretical writings that accompanies the study on hysteria.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate a detailed and critical understanding of the themes of the course in particular and the historical narratives in the history of knowledge and medicine in general;
  2. demonstrate the ability to understand and apply specialised research and methodological skills considered in the course;
  3. demonstrate, in the final essay and through oral contributions, the ability to develop critical and independent argumentation and to apply it to an analysis of relevant scholarship concerning history of medicine and societal changes in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries;
  4. demonstrate intellectual maturity and autonomy, and the ability to formulate appropriate questions and conclusions;
  5. demonstrate the ability to understand of how theories and terminologies are underpinned by preliminaries and changeable "turns".
Reading List
Campbell, B.: The Making of `American': Race and Nation in Neurasthenic Discourse. In: History of Psychiatry, 18 (2007) 2, 157-178.

Cox, C.: Negotiating Insanity in the Southeast of Ireland, 1820-1900, Manchester 2012.

Ernst, W.: European Madness and Gender in Nineteenth-Century British India. In: Social History of Medicine, 9 (1996), 357-82.

Gilman, S.L.: The Madness of the Jews In: Difference and Pathology. Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race and Madness, 1985, S. 150-162.

Lerner, P.: From Traumatic Neurosis to Male Hysteria: The Decline and Fall of Hermann Oppenheim, 1889-1919 In: Micale, Mark S.; Lerner Paul (eds.): Traumatic Pasts. History, Psychiatry, and Trauma in the Modern Age, 1870-1930, 140-172.

Micale, M.S.: Approaching Hysteria. Disease and Its Interpretations, Princeton 1995.

Prior, P.M.: Mad, Not Bad: Crime, Mental Disorder and Gender in Nineteenth-Century Ireland. In: History of Psychiatry, 8 (1997), 501-516.

Showalter, E.: The Female Malady. Women, Madness, and English Culture 1830-1980, New York 1985.

Sadowsky, J.: Psychiatry and Colonial Ideology in Nigeria. In: Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 71 (1997), 94-111.

Swartz, S.: Colonising the Insane: Causes of Insanity in the Cape, 1891- 1920. In: History of Human Sciences, 8 (1995), 39-57.

Wilson, L.B.: Women and Medicine in the French Enlightenment: The Debate over Maladies des Femmes, Baltimore 1993.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Justyna Turkowska
Course secretaryMr Jonathan Donnelly
Tel: (0131 6)50 3782
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