Hysteria as Discourse

Eugene Lang College Lib Arts: Literary Studies

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Degree Students
Hysteria as Discourse
Spring 2023
Taught By: Emma Lieber
Section: A

CRN: 13423

Credits: 4

As a descriptive and diagnostic term, “hysteria” has had a variegated history. From ancient Greek and Egyptian descriptions of hysteria (itself a Greek word that means “wandering womb”), which often treated it as a condition related to failures in reproduction and marriage; to 16th and 17th-century treatments of hysteria as a medical condition; to Sigmund Freud’s work on the etiology of hysteria as a psychosomatic affliction, hysteria has historically been linked to questions of femininity, sexuality, desire, the body, and repression. And yet more contemporary thinkers also theorize hysteria as a cultural discourse and political stance—that is, as a subjective position intimately related to the workings of power and knowledge—even as the term has dropped out of medical and therapeutic fields. In this course, we will understand hysteria as a speaking position taken up by both bodies and communities, and also as a kind of writing: a writing on the body and on the page. By reading theoretical and literary works by writers such as Freud, Jacques Lacan, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Virginia Woolf, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Sheila Heti, Frank Wilderson III, and Elaine Showalter, we will examine both the depiction and the performance of hysteria in literary, theoretical, and political texts, and we will ask such questions as: is hysteria a feminist or a misogynist cultural idea, or both? If hysteria is linked to femininity and sexuality, what does it also have to do with patriarchy and race? What does it have to do with community? What are the forms of writing that transmit the hysterical position, and what are its potentials and pitfalls?

Permission of the instructor will be required to register for this course after the first week of the semester

College: Eugene Lang College Lib Arts (LC)

Department: Literary Studies (LLST)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: February 5, 2023 (Sunday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 16, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: No

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 9:54am EDT 6/3/2023

Meeting Info:
Days: Monday, Wednesday
Times: 10:00am - 11:40am
Building: Academic Entrance 63 Fifth Ave
Room: 201
Date Range: 1/23/2023 - 5/15/2023