Journal of Romance Studies

Witnessing through the skin: the hysteric’s body as text

Journal of Romance Studies (2009), 9, (3), 73–85.

Abstract

How does the hysteric bear witness through her body?This article looks at ways in which, from antiquity to the present day, the hysteric has borne witness to the anxiety of her time, age and sex through the speaking surface of her skin. In the eighth century CE a doctor tears the veil off the caliph’s concubine; in the Renaissance physicians and witchfinders look for stigmata; in the eighteenth century hysteria is located in ‘the nerves’; in the early twentieth century Charcot displays hysteria to audience or camera and Freud ‘wipes away’ the memories of Frau Emmy von N.What anxieties mark the surface of the troubled young woman of today? In its conclusion, this article suggests that it is exposure that haunts the outside of her body, circling it without protection, in a world where ‘health’ is not a pleasure but a duty.

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Anzieu, Didier (1995) [1985] Le Moi-peau (Paris: Dunod). Le Moi-peau Google Scholar

Benvenuto, Sergio (2005) ‘Dora flees...’, Journal of European Psychoanalysis 20.2, 3–31. Dora flees... Journal of European Psychoanalysis 20.2 3 31 Google Scholar

Blum, Virginia (2003) Flesh Wounds (Berkeley: University of California Press). Flesh Wounds Google Scholar

Bollas, Christopher (2000) Hysteria (London and New York: Routledge). Hysteria Google Scholar

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Porter, Roy (1993) ‘The body and the mind, the doctor and the patient’, in Hysteria Beyond Freud, ed. Sander L. Gilman, Helen King, Roy Porter, G. S. Rousseau and Elaine Showalter (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press), 225–85. The body and the mind, the doctor and the patient Hysteria Beyond Freud 225 85 Google Scholar

Prosser, Jay (1998) Second Skins (New York: Columbia University Press). Second Skins Google Scholar

Proust,Marcel (1954) [1913] À la recherche du temps perdu, vol 1: Du côté de chez Swann (Paris: Gallimard). À la recherche du temps perdu, vol 1: Du côté de chez Swann Google Scholar

Roudinesco, Élisabeth (1994) Histoire de la psychanalyse en France 1 1885–1939 (Paris: Fayard). Histoire de la psychanalyse en France 1 1885–1939 Google Scholar

Rousseau, G. S. (1993) ‘“A strange pathology”’, in Hysteria Beyond Freud, ed. Sander L. Gilman, Helen King, Roy Porter, G. S. Rousseau and Elaine Showalter (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press), 91–221. “A strange pathology” Hysteria Beyond Freud 91 221 Google Scholar

Schwartz, Howard S. (2005) ‘Organization in the age of hysteria’, Journal of European Psychoanalysis 20.1, 41–71. Organization in the age of hysteria Journal of European Psychoanalysis 20.1 41 71 Google Scholar

Segal, Naomi (1981) The Banal Object: Theme and Thematic in Proust, Rilke, Hofmannsthal and Sartre (London: Institute of Germanic Studies). The Banal Object: Theme and Thematic in Proust, Rilke, Hofmannsthal and Sartre Google Scholar

Segal, Naomi (2009) Consensuality: Didier Anzieu, Gender and the Sense of Touch (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi). Consensuality: Didier Anzieu, Gender and the Sense of Touch Google Scholar

Showalter, Elaine (1998) [1997] Hystories (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan). Hystories Google Scholar

Showalter, Elaine (1993) ‘Hysteria, feminism, and gender’, in Hysteria Beyond Freud, ed. Sander L. Gilman, Helen King, Roy Porter, G. S. Rousseau, and Elaine Showalter (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press), 286–344. Hysteria, feminism, and gender Hysteria Beyond Freud 286 344 Google Scholar

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Segal, Naomi