Skip to main content

Black History Month: Select Books 30% Off

Harvard University Press - home
Hysterical Men

Hysterical Men

The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness

Mark S. Micale

ISBN 9780674031661

Publication date: 11/30/2008

Over the course of several centuries, Western masculinity has successfully established itself as the voice of reason, knowledge, and sanity—the basis for patriarchal rule—in the face of massive testimony to the contrary. Hysterical Men boldly challenges this triumphant vision of the stable and secure male by examining the central role played by modern science and medicine in constructing and sustaining it.

Mark Micale reveals the hidden side of this vision, that is, the innumerable cases of disturbed and deranged men who passed under the eyes of male medical and scientific elites from the seventeenth century onward. Since ancient times, physicians and philosophers had closely observed and extravagantly theorized female weakness, emotionality, and madness. What these male experts failed to see—or saw but did not acknowledge—was masculine nervous and mental illness among all classes and in diverse guises. While cultural and literary intellectuals pioneered new languages of male emotional distress, European science was invested in cultivating and protecting the image of male, middle-class detachment, objectivity, and rationality despite rampant counter-evidence in the clinic, in the laboratory, and on battlefields.

The reasons for suppressing male neurosis from the official discourses of science and medicine as well as from popular view range from the personal and psychological to the professional and the political. They make for a history full of profound silences, omissions, and amnesias. Now, however, under the greatly altered circumstances of today’s gender revolution, Micale’s work allows this story to be heard.


  • An absolutely first-rate inquiry into the history of psychiatry and the shape-shifting entity called hysteria. No one concerned with the significance of gender can ignore Micale's thoughtful, engaging, and discerning analysis. Hysterical Men will be widely and enthusiastically reviewed -- and read.

    —Charles Rosenberg, Harvard University


  • Mark S. Micale is Professor of History, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

Book Details

  • 384 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press