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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Scholarly Examination of Late 20th Century Disease
I just wanted to say, having ACTUALLY READ this book, that thethose who attacked it here were the ones who made me buy it. That being said, this is an excellent survey on the subject, with wise insight into those who exploit, to their own ends and further victimize people by using the stimatization of one word: hysteria--- while not examining the power of psychosomatic...
Published on 5 Aug. 1997

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, but slightly lacking focus
The difficulty with a book on hysteria is that by definition it covers a multitude of vaguely defined subjects. Showalter tries, and mostly succeeds, in describing what was meant by "hysteria" throughout different periods of history, showing how it was viewed by patients and physicians. She discusses the changing theories about the causes of hysteria, as well as showing...
Published on 4 May 2005


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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, but slightly lacking focus, 4 May 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture (Paperback)
The difficulty with a book on hysteria is that by definition it covers a multitude of vaguely defined subjects. Showalter tries, and mostly succeeds, in describing what was meant by "hysteria" throughout different periods of history, showing how it was viewed by patients and physicians. She discusses the changing theories about the causes of hysteria, as well as showing how the symptoms themselves changed as patients ideas about hysteria changed. While being interesting and well-written, the discussion of psychosomatic illness was slightly lacking in depth and science: I preferred Edward Shorter's "From Paralysis to Fatigue".
The book also covers modern forms of "mass hysteria", such as alien abduction, recovered memory and chronic fatigue syndrome, showing how easily people can be persuaded to believe that their problems are caused by some outside entity rather than looking at their own emotional problems or stresses.
Showalter also discusses feminism and the links between literature and hysteria, which I found a bit bizarre.
Overall it is a good and readable book, but does somewhat lack focus by covering a broad range of subjects in too little detail and by wandering off into unrelated areas.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Scholarly Examination of Late 20th Century Disease, 5 Aug. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Hystories (Hardcover)
I just wanted to say, having ACTUALLY READ this book, that thethose who attacked it here were the ones who made me buy it. That being said, this is an excellent survey on the subject, with wise insight into those who exploit, to their own ends and further victimize people by using the stimatization of one word: hysteria--- while not examining the power of psychosomatic illness. While I would toss out most of the Freudian crap, it---it only makes sense that our culture is making us sick. We are dehumanized by corporate materialism, social darwinism, social isolation, and definitions of worthiness based on bank accounts and toys. At the same time, everyone is told they are expendable. Is it any surprise, that people are depressed?
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brave & sensible but limited by literary feminist bias, 20 Jan. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Hystories (Hardcover)
H Y S T E R I A, H I S A N D H E R S published in <i>National Review</i>, 9/1/97 -- by STEVE SAILER (Mr. Sailer is a businessmanand writer.) . .. . . .
SOMETIMES you get what you ask for. Back in 1985 Elaine Showalter, a Princeton English professor specializing in the social history of mental health, concluded her critique of the traditional psychotherapy profession by proclaiming: ``The best hope for the future is the feminist therapy movement.'' By 1997, the mental-health industry has become thoroughly feminized, but Professor Showalter has had second thoughts: ``The therapist's role is more and more to affirm, support, and endorse the patient's narrative, . . . and not to challenge the truth or historical reality of the patient's assertions.'' This credulous atmosphere, she believes, has helped unleash ``hysterical epidemics,'' such as the disgraceful witchhunts for satanic cults running day-care centers. Mrs. Showalter cites five other ``hysterical'' outbreaks: the booms in recovered memory of incestuous abuse, multiple-personality disorders, alien abductions, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Gulf War Syndrome. For an academic treatise with a first printing of only 7,500 copies, Hystories has already generated quite a backlash. In hounding the author, Chronic Fatigue sufferers have proved especially energetic. . . . . . .. .
Mrs. Showalter's strongest chapters are on epidemics like the satanic-abuse and alien-abduction scares, whose alleged causes are wholly imaginary; and on Gulf War Syndrome, whose primary cause is real but not specific to that conflict: ``war makes people sick.'' While it may turn out that chemical weapons or sand fleas really did afflict some minority of the sufferers, on the whole GWS appears to be the latest version of what other eras labeled ``shell shock,'' ``battle fatigue,'' or ``post-traumatic stress disorder.'' America must realize that one of the costs of going to war is later paying fully for treatment and disability leaves for a substantial number of psychologically injured soldiers, although treating mental traumas as honorable wounds will no doubt let some hypochondriacs and malingerers slip through. . . . . . . . Unfortunately, Miss Showalter's literary world view is too black-and-white for those epidemics where some but not all of the patients' stories are true, e.g., incestuous abuse. The acrimony of these debates stems in part from both sides' thinking about all patients as Platonic abstractions (``incest victims'' v. ``hysterics''). In reality, mental health is more like an unsettlingly random pachinko game. The classic case study of how psychological debates tend toward dogmatism has been running for a full century since Sigmund Freud analyzed 18 unhappy young women. After much bullying by Freud, they all produced stories of childhood sexual abuse. First announcing an epidemic of incest, Freud then publicly changed his mind and blamed all the women for repressing Oedipal fantasies. Millions of words have since been written about this controversy. Most feminists contend that all 18 really were incest victims. In contrast, after a decade of listening to the nonsensical narratives that present-day therapists can elicit, Professor Showalter thinks Freud was right to recant. . . . .. . . . . .
Few, however, seem to have remarked how unlikely it is that any single diagnosis was right for all 18. In truth, some of the troubled women probably were child-abuse victims, while some others may have been repressing guilty fantasies. Probably a large proportion were suffering from other root problems that weren't understood back then, such as chemical imbalances in the brain that strike largely at random. Serotonin, for instance, acts rather like motor oil for your emotional engine, keeping your mental gears from grinding. It can run low -- often, it appears, just from wear and tear. Since the cause of the emotional illnesses stemming from serotonin shortages is commonly not apparent, victims are susceptible to whatever tall tales (a/k/a hysterical epidemics) their therapists or the media happen to be spreading at the moment. Thankfully, we now have drugs like Prozac, and a new, more pragmatic school of psychiatrists who no longer set out on ideologically motivated searches for the root causes of your unhappiness, but instead concentrate on rebalancing your brain chemistry. . . . . . . .. . . A beneficial side effect of a more realistic conception of hysterical epidemics allows this useful concept to be profitably applied to other current brouhahas where facts and feelings get hopelessly entangled, e.g., date rape and sexual harassment. . . . . . . . . . . This sensible but limited book illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of what has recently become a lonely rump of feminism: ``equity'' or ``rationalist'' feminism. Appalled by the flapdoodle peddled by most feminists today, Mrs. Showalter wearily protests, ``Feminism has a strong Enlightenment, rationalist tradition of debate and skepticism, whose memory I attempt to recover and reassert.'' She bravely points out that the great majority of these epidemics' self-proclaimed victims are women, even the alien abductees. (Gulf War Syndrome, of course, is the exception, but the number of soldiers' wives who have also come down with GWS is striking.) . . . . . . . . . . Unfortunately, rationalist feminism is itself founded on a death-defying leap of faith: the assumption that there are no biological bases for differences in behavior between the sexes. Thus, equity feminism was much to blame for the imprisoning of so many young women day-care workers on absurd charges of raping children and eating babies. If we know anything about sex abuse, we know it's a solitary male crime, not something women do, especially not in groups. But equity feminism has made such stereotypes unacceptable, so all those young women, whose only crime was that they loved little kids so much they'd work with them for $5 an hour, had to go to jail. . . . . . . . . . . Further, rationalist feminism's fundamental dogma of sexual uniformity prevents Miss Showalter from grasping why feminist movements are so vulnerable to the irrationalism she despises. It's not because women aren't as smart as men. Although the sexes do differ on average in mathematical skills, women may well be superior in verbal logic. (Try eavesdropping on two teenage girls analyzing the endless possibilities of what some boy really meant when he said, ``Maybe, like, I'll see you around sometime, you know?'') So why, in practice, are the terms ``feminist theory'' and ``scientific theory'' mutually exclusive? . . . .. . . . . . The particular form of rationality that originated in the Enlightenment requires more than just the ability to construct castles of logical conjecture in the air. Galileo wasn't any more ingenious at conceiving interlocking celestial spheres than his ancient rival Ptolemy. What distinguished Galileo, and the Enlightenment in general, was that masculine competitive delight in risking the destruction of your own hypotheses in order to smash the other guy's beautiful celestial spheres of theory. The Enlightenment turned reason into a contact sport. Feminist movements careen into gullibility because women, especially when talking mostly to other women, find it more emotionally difficult than men to treat intellectual debate as a game. Women tend to take it much more personally, closing their minds to opponents and pulling their punches with friends.
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7 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No evidence = No credibility, 21 April 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Hystories (Hardcover)
The publisher of Ms. Showalter's book, Columbia Press, shouldbe ashamed. This slanderous pulp should have never been published and should definately not be promoted. Without any medical ^M citations, Ms. Showalter has written a very biased piece of work that is in itself very hurtful to Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) patients by perpetuating the myth that these illnesses are "all in the head".^M ^M
On a positive note, because of Hysteries, many doctors have come to the defense of CFS patients. Dr. Marsha Wallace was on Washington local TV^M just recently and she went on and took on Showalter person to person emphasizing that her patients don't get better with antidepressants and^M psychiatry. Dr. Ben Natelson commented in a radio interview that CFS is a real disease when the topic of Ms. Showalter came up. Dr. Paul Levine, on a recent chat on Prodigy, stated in regards to CFS being considered a hysterical disorder, that "any physician who believes that this is true is^M not keeping up with the literature and should be informed that (s)he needs updating." Dr. Philip Lee, assistant secretary of health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recently stated, "It is not, as some have characterized it, some sort of psychological problem. Recovery is slow and uncertain for^M many clients." ^M
How can Ms. Showalter justify her hysterical disorder thesis by ignoring these medical professionals and the medical literature that is published clearly indicating this is a physical disorder? What is her hidden agenda? ^M ^M
Controversy can be turned into dollars regardless of the negative impact it has on its victims. This is pure greed at its finest, folks.
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Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture
Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture by Elaine Showalter (Paperback - 5 Jun. 1998)
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