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Hysteria Complicated by Ecstasy : The Case of Nanette Leroux - Jan Goldstein

Hysteria Complicated by Ecstasy

The Case of Nanette Leroux

Paperback Published: 20th November 2011
ISBN: 9780691152370
Number Of Pages: 264

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Hysteria Complicated by Ecstasy offers a rare window into the inner life of a person ordinarily inaccessible to historians: a semiliterate peasant girl who lived almost two centuries ago, in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Eighteen-year-old Nanette Leroux fell ill in 1822 with a variety of incapacitating nervous symptoms. Living near the spa at Aix-les-Bains, she became the charity patient of its medical director, Antoine Despine, who treated her with hydrotherapy and animal magnetism, as hypnosis was then called. Jan Goldstein translates, and provides a substantial introduction to, the previously unpublished manuscript recounting Nanette's strange illness--a manuscript coauthored by Despine and Alexandre Bertrand, the Paris physician who memorably diagnosed Nanette as suffering from "hysteria complicated by ecstasy." While hysteria would become a fashionable disease among urban women by the end of the nineteenth century, the case of Nanette Leroux differs sharply from this pattern in its early date and rural setting.


Filled with intimate details about Nanette's behavior and extensive quotations of her utterances, the case is noteworthy for the sexual references that contemporaries did not recognize as such; for its focus on the difference between biological and social time; and for Nanette's fascination with the commodities available in the region's nascent marketplace. Goldstein's introduction brilliantly situates the text in its multiple contexts, examines it from the standpoint of early nineteenth-century medicine, and uses the insights of Foucault and Freud to craft a twenty-first-century interpretation.


A compelling, multilayered account of one young woman's mental afflictions, Hysteria Complicated by Ecstasy is an extraordinary addition to the cultural and social history of psychiatry and medicine.

Industry Reviews

"[A]n ingenious accommodation of Freud and Foucault's disparate positions... reviving investigation of hysteria for the new decade."--George Rousseau, Times Literary Supplement "Jan Goldstein ... has uncovered a remarkable manuscript."--Robert Shilkret, PsycCRITIQUES "This is a remarkable piece of analysis in which we learn not only of how a semi-literate peasant girl experienced her nineteenth-century world, but where the reader also experiences how the historian was approached and handled her material. It serves as an inspiring exercise in historical methodology and analysis... Hysteria Complicated by Ecstasy is informative on many levels, and provides a coherent narrative that encapsulates various facets of the life of a girl suffering from mental illness in nineteenth-century Savoy."--Ian Miller, Canadian Journal of History "Hysteria Complicated by Ecstasy is an interesting case study, containing particularly rich and stimulating analysis."--Jacqueune Carroy, Journal of BJHS "Richly detailed and engagingly presented, this study is an important addition to the growing body of work examining medical perspectives on the condition of women and gender relations in the nineteenth century."--Louise Lyle, French Studies "[C]oncise and fascinating."--Sarah Maza, Journal of Modern History "Jan Goldstein has brought to bear her formidable talents as a cultural and intellectual historian in an examination that is always subtle and suggestive... It is a beautifully written and thoughtful book--there are, for example, delightful passages on her personal experiences and procedures as an historian--and superbly produced by Princeton University Press."--Peter McPhee, Metascience "Its insights invite readers to reconsider their own views of psychosomatic illness, as well as to revisit the much-studied subject of hysteria in new terms. The book is written in a clear, concise, and elegant style; it is an admirable and original example of a multi-layered microhistory, one that extends the reader's understanding of the much wider social history forming and informing Nanette's individual case."--Cristina Mazzoni, Nineteenth-Century French Studies "The assets of the work are numerous and Hysteria Complicated by Ecstasy: The Case of Nanette Leroux succeeds on a number of critical fronts. The usefulness of the text is beyond question in terms of the content and it represents some exemplary methodological moves that would helpfully instruct those new to archival work and inspire those familiar with such methods but new to medical history. All in all, the work is commendable, smart, and deserves recognition for its many strengths."--Alina Bennett, Foucault Studies "[A]bsorbing and well-written... This is a wonderfully thoughtful contribution to the history of medicine."--Peter Cryle, French History

List of Illustrations viiPreface ixPart One: HYSTERIA COMPLICATED BY ECSTASYSexuality, Time, and Commodities in the Malady of Nanette LerouxChapter 1: PRELIMINARIES 3The Authors of the Case: An Inbuilt Polyphony 6The Plot Summary 11Chapter 2: CONTEXTS 18Contexts: What They Do for the Reader, andHow Many Are Enough 18Savoy: Old Regime, Revolution, and PiedmonteseRestoration 20The Spa: A Characteristically Nineteenth-Century Setting 35Commodities and Consumer Culture 42Diagnostics: Catalepsy and Hysteria circa 1820 46Medicine and Science as Public Spectacle 56The Local Scientifi c Public Sphere 64Scientifi c Networks, or How Despine Found Bertrand 65Religion in Savoy and in the Leroux Case 69Defi ant Women: Despine's Chagrins Domestiques 73Chapter 3: MAKING SENSE OF THE CASE 83The Authors' Understanding of the Case 83A Twenty-First-Century Interpretation of the Case 94Chapter 4: TEXTUAL MATTERS 128Nanette Leroux or "Nanette Leroux": The Issue of Pseudonyms 128Palimpsest and Polyphony: The State of the Manuscript 129Choosing a Text for Translation 133Part Two: THE TEXT OF THE CASE HISTORY OBSERVATIONS OF NANETTE LEROUXHysteria Complicated by Ecstasy 137Appendix On the Compatibility of Foucauldian and Freudian Approaches 201Notes 205Index 239

ISBN: 9780691152370
ISBN-10: 0691152373
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 264
Published: 20th November 2011
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.9 x 15.2  x 2.03
Weight (kg): 0.37

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