Idioms of Distress
Psychosomatic Disorders in Medical and Imaginative Literature
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: State University of New York Press
TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication
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âItâs all in your headâ; âIsnât that what women are supposed to get?â These two responses to the word âpsychosomaticâ (incidentally, from well-educated individuals) are vivid illustrations of the uncertainties surrounding both the term and the concept...
PART I: Hiding and Seeking Distress
CHAPTER ONE. Speaking through the Body
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In Caring for Patients Dr. Allen Barbour reports on a number of challenging cases that led him to a more successful method of treating them. Barbour headed the Diagnostic Clinic, part of the General Medical Clinic at Stanford University Medical...
CHAPTER TWO. Swings of the Historical Pendulum
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âUntil the mid-nineteenth century, . . . , all medicine was necessarily and ubiquitously âpsychosomatic,ââ the eminent medical historian Charles Rosenberg asserts in his incisive article âMind and Body in Nineteenth- Century Medicineâ (77). âEvery clinician,â he goes on, âhad to be something of a psychiatrist and family...
CHAPTER THREE. The Mysterious Leap
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âMysteriousâ or âpuzzlingâ? These are two possible translations of the word Freud applied to what he called the leap from the mind to the body typical of psychosomatic conversion disorders. His own phrase in the seventeenth lecture...
CHAPTER FOUR. Literary Patients
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âThe psychiarist who takes it upon himself to attempt a character study of an individual whom he has never met is engaged upon a project which is full of risk.â1 With these words the eminent British psychiatrist Anthony Storr expresses his reservations at the opening of his study, âChurchillâs Black Dog, Kafkaâs Mice, and Oher Phenomena of the Human Mind.â He goes on to elaborate on the difficulty of assessing a person (Churchill) whom he never...
PART II: Metaphors of Distress
CHAPTER FIVE. â A Strange Sympathy betwixt Soul and Bodyâ: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
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The phrase âa strange sympathy betwixt soul and body,â which so aptly characterizes the essence of psychosomatic disorders, is uttered in The Scarlet Letter by the scholarly physician Roger Chillingworth about the ârare caseâ (135) of pastor Arthur Dimmesdale...
CHAPTER SIX. Nerves: At the Interstices of Physiology and Psychology: Emile Zola, ThÃ©rÃ¨se Raquin (1867)
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âNerfsâ (nerves) is a word that recurs with striking frequency in Zolaâs early novel ThÃ©rÃ¨se Raquin. Nerves form the mainspring of the actions of the two central characters, the titular ThÃ©rÃ¨se and Laurent, her lover and subsequently her second husband. ThÃ©rÃ¨se is at first presented as having the more nervous temperament. Yet...
CHAPTER SEVEN. âA Sick Spot on the Body of the Familyâ: Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks (1900)
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âDu bist ein Auswuchs, eine ungesunde Stelle am KÃ¶rper unserer Familie!â 1 (You are a sore, a sick spot on the body of our family), Thomas shouts at his profligate younger brother in an angry confrontation. The German word âAuswuchsâ has a sinister ring, suggesting something ugly, a growth that should not be there,...
CHAPTER EIGHT. âLegs Turned to Butterâ: Arthur Miller, Broken Glass (1994)
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âHer legs turned to butter, I couldnât stand her up. Kept falling around like a rag doll. I had to carry her into the house,â Phillip Gellburg tells the family physician, Dr. Harry Hyman, at the opening...
CHAPTER NINE. Substance and Shadow: Brian OâDoherty, The Strange Case of Mademoiselle P. (1992)
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âWe are both substance and shadow, and it is the shadow that moves the substanceâ (7), the narrating voice asserts in the opening section of The Strange Case of Mademoiselle P. This phrase also applies to OâDohertyâs novel as a whole....
CHAPTER TEN. Shell Shock: Pat Barker, Regeneration (1991)
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Pat Barkerâs novel Regeneration fuses fact and fiction. It takes place in 1917, mainly at Craiglockhart hospital in Scotland, where the poet Siegfried Sassoon becomes the patient of the neurologist-psychiatrist Dr. W. H. R. Rivers. These two historical figures are surrounded by a group of fictional characters....
CHAPTER ELEVEN. Outing the Distress
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The essence of psychosomatic disorders lies in the outing of an unacknowledged psychological distress through the body. What forms does this outing take in the body of literature about such disorders? Specifically, how do the medical and the imaginative...
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Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2003