The theoretical support for this proposal is the Invention of Hysteria by Georges Didi-Huberman, who, approaching categories of literary and cultural theory. Georges Didi-Huberman’s The Invention of Hysteria is a fascinating historiography of the intersection of medicine, photography, and empiricism during. Didi-Huberman, G. (). Invention of hysteria: Charcot and the photographic iconography of the Salpêtrière (A. Hartz, Trans.). Cambridge, MA, US: MIT Press.

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Georges Didi-Huberman and the Invention of | Emma Pustan –

By Georges Didi-Huberman, trans. In Georges Didi-Huberman published Invention of Hysteriaa book that instantly became a classic of late-twentieth-century intellectual [End Page ] history.

Now MIT Press has published a supple English translation by Alisa Hartz, who keeps the author’s wordplay intact and provides useful, intelligent notes. The premise of this study is simple, and dazzling.

Didi-Huberman’s The Invention of Hysteria, by Bernie Geoghegan

inventlon Didi-Huberman seeks to recover the intellectual, artistic, and scientific context for Charcot’s decades-long investigation of a disease he called hysteria, with special attention to the ways in which he used photography. Didi-Huberman betrays his own intellectual origins in France of the late s through his wide range of references, his relentless attention to unusual primary sources such as the clinical files that support Charcot’s published researchand his application of poststructuralist methods that recall the work of Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes.

Not surprisingly, Didi-Huberman is most interested in the ways that photographic images record the contemporary understanding of medicine and psychology.


He uses these images to uncover the relationship between doctor and patient, a particularly rich line when the doctor is also the photographer.

We see how Charcot’s patients regularly performed their illness in front of his famous public “Tuesday Lectures. Didi-Huberman insists that both performances and records were essential to Charcot’s work, and calls this “the discreet but astonishing passage.

This style gives the author a distinct personality, and is also essential to the argument’s success, for this voice consistently challenges the fiction of the neutral, omniscient, “scientific” investigator. Along with Didi-Huberman and Charcot himself, participants in this narrative include Charcot’s several collaborators, his students and critics, the subjects of his investigations, and, finally, the reader. Didi-Huberman insists that the recognition and recording of hysteria are essentially a collaborative work of art.

He draws on methods of the historian and art historian in his use of plentiful illustrations.

He provides the historical context and official case history for an image, and then compares the same image to other pictures, many of them familiar to both patients and doctors, including medical illustrations, illustrations from books, and the narrative academic paintings that filled contemporary public exhibitions, including those depicting Charcot.

Didi-Huberman reads the textual accounts of hysteria as a form of fiction, explaining that he “simply want[s] to indicate the fundamental complicity between clinical practice and figurative, plastic and literary paradigms” p. As a result, mysterious, opaque images and texts become useful evidence regarding both the subjects and the men who treated them. Throughout the volume, Didi-Huberman shows us Charcot’s clinic through the eyes of two important characters.


Our heroine is Augustine, the hysteric who came to Charcot at age fifteen, and for years provided the perfect subject—until she finally escaped, cured, perhaps by boredom or exasperation. Sigmund Freud, Charcot’s student, is the perfect observer If you would like to authenticate using a different subscribed institution that supports Shibboleth authentication or have your own login and password to Project MUSE, click ‘Authenticate’.

Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpêtrière

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