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On HysteriaThe Invention of a Medical Category between 1670 and 1820$
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Sabine Arnaud

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226275543

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226275680.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Adopting Roles and Redefining Medicine

Adopting Roles and Redefining Medicine

(p.207) 6 Adopting Roles and Redefining Medicine
On Hysteria

Sabine Arnaud

University of Chicago Press

This last chapter analyzes how physicians reframed their social and scientific status in the wake of the French Revolution. A first case study is the writing of Pierre Pomme and his art of mystifying readers by locating his practice within a theological frame. A second case looks at magnetism and the role of somnambulism in envisioning an extraordinary practice. The chapter then investigates how, starting in the 1770s, physicians cast hysteria as a dangerous symptom of modernity. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, this type of discourse served as an opportunity to expand the role of medicine. The new focus on the health of the nation’s body shifted the stakes of hysteric illness. It was no longer a diagnosis belonging to the upper classes, but one shaped to facilitate a medical discourse on women. Such discourses are instituted not from the distanced position of universal knowledge, but from the proximity of a figure who claims to understand men, women, mothers, and youngsters—the doctor. The role they forge portrays the physician as crucial for the state, securing the preconditions for a healthy national mind and body.

Keywords:   Pierre Pomme, Voltaire, modernity, magnetism, somnambulism, French Revolution, women, citizen-patient, public health

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