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For many years I walked through my wards like a blind man, never seeing hysteria, not because it was not there, after all it is common, but because I did not know how to look at things. —Jean-Martin Charcot, Lectures on the Diseases of the Nervous System Stasis, which translates literally from Greek as“stopping place,”has been used in classical rhetoric to understand the different kinds of stopping places, or forms of disagreement, from which arguments can unfold. This way of thinking about stasis has offered a fruitful way to illuminate how and why some arguments get stuck at a certain point beyond which some or all of the participants in a dispute are unable to move. For instance, Christa Teston and S. Scott Graham reveal how a failure of stakeholders to agree about what counts as a clinical benefit and what counts as legitimate evidence prevented any meaningful form of public participation in a recent FDA hearing about the safety and efficacy of the use of Avastin as a breast cancer treatment drug. Their analysis invokes the concepts of evidentiary and methodological stases to explain why even though public participants whose expertise derived from successful treatment that included the use of Avastin were invited to participate in the hearing, their testimonies were not perceived as legitimate sources of knowledge, so the hearings did not result in any new knowledge production, and the FDA’s stance on Avastin was not changed. Other analyses offer different interpretations of this concept, using stasis theory to illuminate how change can occur in science and medicine. In these studies, we see that even if the moments of stasis—or of arriving at stopping places—that occur in scientific arguments seem insurmountable at the times when they occur, these temporary points of stoppage can sometimes be exactly Charcot’s Circus | Nineteenth-Century Science of Hysteria as a Moment of Stasis 3 19094-Koerber_FromHysteria.indd 45 19094-Koerber_FromHysteria.indd 45 1/15/18 4:41 PM 1/15/18 4:41 PM 46 from hysteria to hormones what is needed for an argument to advance to the next stage and result in the production of new knowledge. Thus, for instance, S. Scott Graham and Carl Herndl use stasis theory to illuminate disputes that occurred among an interdisciplinary group of specialists in pain medicine. Their analysis reveals how intense disputes about how to define pain led to moments of “interpretivede finitive stasis,” and disputes about which discipline’s evidence was most suitable for the treatment of pain led to moments of “evidential-translative stasis.” In Graham and Herndl’s analysis, however, these moments of stasis were ultimately productive because they led this group to move beyond their disciplinary differences and to“explore a hybrid discourse on pain.” Stasis, in analyses such as these, is revealed as an aspect of rhetoric that is fraught with contradictions. It is a stopping point that contains movement. It is a temporary pause that does not always indicate full paralysis of the argument, but rather a place of waiting for the force to build to such an extent that it eventually has to be released, which pushes the argument in a new direction.As a rhetorical concept, then, stasis offers an intriguing next move from the previous chapter’s focus on topos. If topos draws our attention to the moments of breakthrough or discovery in science—that is,the moments when science seems to move suddenly forward—stasis draws our attention to the seemingly opposite phenomenon of moments when science appears to stand still. In the history of medical beliefs about hysteria, I argue in this chapter, the nineteenth century can be understood as just such a moment. On one hand, a desperate adherence to ancient beliefs characterized this era. On the other hand, experts in many of the newly emerging subdisciplines of medicine were striving, although not succeeding , to produce explanations and cures for hysteria that would meet the era’s increasing demands for scientific verifiability. In fact, hysteria received so much attention from experts in the nineteenth century that this era has been dubbed“the age of hysteria.” As I argue in this chapter,it is these two contradictory “rhetorical motions” —the desire to cling to ancient ideas about hysteria, and the intense efforts to achieve a scientific explanation that would meet the needs of nineteenth-century experts—that establish the contours of stasis...


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