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Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media Paperback – 6 May 1998

3.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Paperback, 6 May 1998
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Product details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (6 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231104596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231104593
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,403,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"A spirited Freudo-literary analysis of what she calls hysterical epidemics and what social scientists call emotional contagions or mass psychogenic illnesses. Her six examples are chronic fatigue syndrome, gulf war syndrome, recovered memories of sexual abuse, multiple personality disorder, satanic ritual abuse and alien abduction. She knows full well that throwing the first three into the mix will 'infuriate thousands of people who believe they are suffering from unidentified organic disorders or the after-effects of trauma.' She braves not only their wrath, but also that of the feminist therapists and writers whose 'credulous endorsements of recovered memory and satanic abuse' have contributed to these epidemics. This attitude alone is worth the price of the book." -- "New York Times Book Review"

"A thought-provoking book for informed readers." -- "Library Journal"

"Showalter carries her reader along an illuminating gallop through the history of hysteria... Psychological ills, Showalter believes, must be accorded the same respect as physical ones. Her basic argument should offer solace. If our epidemics are stories of sorts, they should be listened to carefully. The stories we tell say a lot about our fantasies, our fears, and our preoccupations." -- "Time"

Book Description

‘Hystories is an exhilarating book which lobs politically incorrect cocktails in all directions . . . it is important and impressive in opening up a debate and reminding us of the psychological relevance of history’ Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times ‘Groundbreaking . . . this is undoubtedly a brave book and one which should be welcomed for generating arguments which so far have been silenced’ Julie Wheelwright, Scotland on Sunday ‘Hystories is guaranteed to make us take a more reflective look at the fears and demons that so rampantly haunt our fin de siècle’ Lisa Appignanesi, Independent ‘Provocative and immensely readable . . . Showalter’s gift is for lively, literate and interpretive synthesis of specialized academic scholarship, in language that bridges the popular and scholarly worlds . . . we can be thankful for a commentator as sane, courageous and clear-headed as [she]’ Mark S. Micale, Times Literary Supplement ‘Considered and level-headed’ Ruth Rendell, Daily Telegraph ‘This is a brave book, not only because it dares to question feminist orthodoxies, but also because it reminds us that feminism’s purpose is the investigation of truth, not the perpetuation of blame’ Erica Jong --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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.
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By A Customer on 21 April 1997
Format: 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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