Thursday, June 26, 2014


Very strange French postcard from around 1900: comico-serious image of bourgeois lady in the throes of hysteria, being attended by (?) flummoxed husband.  The concept of hysteria was not a new one in the late 19th century, of course, but had really come into its own, medically speaking--and in the popular imagination--with the famous clinical studies by Charcot and others in the 1870s.  

In its own tacky way, the image makes explicit the idea advanced in Freud and Breuer's case study of "Anna O.":  that so-called hysterical symptoms originated in--indeed were a displaced representation of--unconscious sexual fantasies and desires.