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Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris Paperback – 23 May 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Export/Airside ed edition (23 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408815125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408815120
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,776,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Fascinating and beautifully written (Guardian)

Fascinating ... gives us a disturbing insight into the extent to which doctors, patients and diseases, both then and now, are products of their time (Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times)

Thoughtful and engrossing (Miranda Seymour, Daily Telegraph)

The thoroughly researched, very readable material brings to life their strange and remarkable stories, told in meticulous detail, as well as the brilliance and brutality of the great physician (Independent)

Consistently enthralling (Kathryn Harrison, New York Times)

Fascinating ... This account of psychiatry in its infancy is unforgettable (Lesley McDowell Independent on Sunday)

Asti Hustvedt has tapped into a deeply fascinating seam of medical history here ... Her descriptions of patients, and of Jean-Martin Charcot, the doctor who treated them, are peerless (William Leith Scotsman) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A groundbreaking new book about the nineteenth century obsession with hysteria, focussing on the renowned Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By The Keeper of Ducks on 11 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I very rarely write reviews on Amazon, but having seen the misleading and rather reactionary comments that have been made by other reviewers, I felt I had to set things straight.

My husband has been an M.E. sufferer for over ten years, so I am no stranger to the frustrations others are referring to. However, it is totally ludicrous to review an entire book based on a few passing references in the first pages, particularly if you haven't read the rest of the book. I strongly suspect that this is the case for most of these reviewers here. Please don't let the other reviews blind you to a fantastic piece of writing on a very compelling topic. This book isn't even about M.E.

Hustvedt offers the most colourful, delightful and compelling account of the stories surrounding three women diagnosed with hysteria in late 19th century Paris, women who because of their diagnosis became world famous. Equally fascinating is the account of the hospital where these women lived, their dealings with the doctors and photographers who dealt with them on a daily basis, and the incredible Professor Charcot. Seriously, don't miss out on delving into this incredible history. The final chapter contextualises this history and discusses why it is relevant today. Absolutely fascinating.

I began reading this book yesterday and found it utterly gripping. I read it for three hours straight while my son was at his childminder, had to put it down reluctantly when the time was up, but still thought about it all day. The writing is fabulous, very very accessible, entertaining, concise, thought provoking. I was particularly drawn into the account of Charcot, (I keep imagining him sharing his dinner table with a monkey!
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Anne on 26 July 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a history book, looking at a clinic and doctor in Paris over 100 years ago. The other reviews refer to a short comment in an epilogue suggested by the publisher - this is not, nor is it intended to be, a book about specific illnesses.

Again, it's a history book - fascinating and well-written.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By gerardpeter on 4 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
This book has aroused some antagonism, occasioned by its supposed denial of the reality of ME/CFS. I came at the book from a different angle, an interest in the history and sociology of medicine. I found it a fantastic read. The photographs and illustrations illuminate a fascinating study.

In late 19th century Paris the Sal Petriere was a massive hospital, almost a small town. Working there were doctors who founded the specialty of neurology. Their names are still remembered - Duchenne [muscular dystrophy], Babinski [reflex]etc. Not all their theories have stood the test of time. Asti Hustvedt tells the story of the rise and fall of one diagnosis - "hysteria", which once accounted for 20% of admissions to the facility.

The book is organised round the cases of three women. She recounts what is known of them prior to hospitalisation - poverty, abandonment ,abuse. In the hospital their lives were transformed - their symptoms , described in detail here, exciting the interest of the most eminent doctors of the day, led by Jean-Martin Charcot. They were the centre of attention - celebrities even.

She draws on detailed medical records, which included photographs, just coming into use in medicine and surgery. She elaborates the theories expounded and the treatments proposed. She shows how personal feelings impacted on doctor-patient boundaries and relationships.

The Parisian neurologists took their ideas into the political debates that followed 1870 and the fall of the Empire. They opposed their rationalism to religious mysticism. In hysteria they believed they had a diagnosis that explained [away] saints and miracles. The self-denying girls of the middle ages, canonised by the Catholic Church, were not divinely-inspired at all, but hysterics.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By batley48 on 10 July 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on 20 April 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting depiction of hysteria, with thoughtful links to the modern-day versions. Recommended for anyone interested in the history of medicine. Thought-provoking.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Penny on 23 Mar. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book!
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