Wednesday, July 28, 2004

i'm suppose to be studying

as "early as the seventeenth century, the files of doctor Robert Napier showed nearly twice as many cases of mental disorder among his woman patients as among men. By the middle of the nineteenth century, records showed that women had become the majority of patients in public lunatic asylums ... [Later] women [were] the prime subjects of shock treatment, psychosurgery, and psychotropic drugs." During the Victorian era, clitoridectomies were performed on madwomen; although "there was no logical reason for it, other than the belief that female madness, melancholia or discontent were somehow associated with 'unnatural desires', that madness was located in the female body" As Foucault traces in Madness and Civilization, madness was seen as the threat because of the idea that it was implicit in the idea of passions, that the minds passions might be acted in the body. Thus, "madness was one of those unities in which laws were compromised, perverted, distorted -- thereby manifesting such unity as evident and established, but also as fragile and already doomed to destruction."
With the rise of modernity, industrialization, and the boom of new technologies, the idea of hysteria shifted from the belief that it was brought on by women not fulfilling their natural duty to bear children to an idea that hysteria was brought on by a surprise, jolt or shock Jean-Martin Charcot linked hysteria and modernity, he "popularized the theory that hysteria could be brought on by trauma, still rooted it in female biology, believing that although men could also suffer from hysteria, young women were more likely to be hysterics, because they were more 'impressionable', 'weaker' and subject to 'nervous attacks'." Hysteria was once again linked to the body, through skin writing. Those suffering from hysteria were thought to have a hypersensitivity in the skin. To demonstrate this condition, doctors would draw lines or patterns on the skin and then photograph it as evidence of the condition. But, "this hypersensitive skin and the practice of writing on it reinforced the idea of the hysteric's body as 'expressive'... yet what it 'expresses' are merely the whims of the doctor (they drew abstract patterns and lines or wrote the diagnosis, the patient's name, their own name, or, more unsettling still, the sign of the devil)."

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