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[Living hysteria--hysteria in every day life and asyum psychiatry around 1900].

[Article in German]

Author information

Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Universität Würzburg, Röntgenring 10, 97070 Würzburg.


Hysteria has been mostly analysed with reference to the medical and intellectual discourse. The patient's view (Porter) has been solely included on the basis of published case histories. Historians have focussed particularly on the relation between famous psychiatrists or neurologists and "their" hysterics. The social circumstances of a maid's mental illness in 1913 are reconstructed. The servant Grete K. was admitted to the Landesheilanstalt Marburg (asylum of Marburg) with the diagnosis of "depressive hysteria". Her hysterical malady was traced back to her reading of the novel 'Ich lasse dich nicht' ('I won't let you go') written by the popular novelist Hedwig Courths-Mahler in 1912. Physicians and pedagogues at that time uniformly claimed the reading of pulp fiction to be dangerous for the nerves in general. Elaine Showalter has pointed out that in the 19th century hysteria was spread by "media infection". This historical analysis of Grete K.s medical record will seize and improve Showalters suggestion. The analysis of the maid's medical record is a part of a dissertation project on hysteria in every day life and psychiatric practice around 1900. The study has turned the attention on the process of negotiation between psychiatrists and hysterical women.

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