[ONLINE] University of Aveiro, Portugal

October 21, 22 and 23 2020

Performativity in Hysteria: A Depathologizing Look

Helena Volani

This research initiates from an approximation with the work of Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot on hysteria, the conceptualization and diffusion as neurological / psychiatric pathology of which happen during his practice inside de Salpêtrière Hospital. Thus, the intent here is to reflect on how a doctor who “accidentally” becomes responsible for an entire wing of France’s largest women’s asylum, the Salpêtrière, “is known as the founder of neurology” (Didi-Huberman) and how, that is, through the use of which methods, does he consolidate his working practices. The research takes interest in Charcot because of the preservation of the image of hysteria created by him, through the practice of hypnosis, which continues to affect bodies even many years after his passing and, therefore, without the practice of his work method. It just goes to prove the intensity of  the strength with which these images still penetrate bodies, especially female ones, even nowadays – and how the reproduction of these images (in screens, photographs or in the performance or the bodies themselves) promotes the penetration of them in their existences and in new bodies, colonized and inhabited by demonstrating possible and validated forms for suffering, and their performance ends up manifesting itself in a way that can be decoded and welcomed by those who surround them, through codes of body, image and sound languages. These bodies do not perform like the actresses who pretend to be Ophelia on the stage, and also no longer like Charcot’s patients, hypnotized; they perform like all women perform their gender throughout life, with symbols that will be recognized, but that don’t cease to be part of how someone expresses subjectivity.

Keywords: Hysteria; Charcot; Performativity; Butler.