Any Differences? Female and Male Bodies in the Iconography of Hysteria
Questions about the kind of body images depicted in nineteenth century medical photography can only be answered by looking at the context of their creation. In what settings were the photos taken? What were the clinical and technical assumptions behind them? Which pictorial conventions influenced the photographer? For what purpose was the photograph taken? This paper addresses these questions by analysing photographs of hysterical fits – or fits diagnosed at the time as hysterical – which were produced at the Hospital Salpêtrière in Paris between 1871 and 1885. The paper illustrates differences between two paradigms of visualisation employed during this period. During the first phase of the »iconography of hysteria«, only female patients were portrayed at the Salpêtrière. From 1882, however, also male patients were treated and photographed. Although Charcot’s concept of hysteria posited no or only very few gender differences in the disease, a closer analysis of the photographs of these male patients reveals significant differences. The second part of the paper discusses whether these differences were due to the kind of mise en scène the photographer Albert Londe used after 1882 or to cultural stereotypes of femininity and masculinity.
Kurz-Bio: Susanne Holschbach