Cover: Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness, from Harvard University PressCover: Hysterical Men in HARDCOVER

Hysterical Men

The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness

Add to Cart

Product Details


$43.50 • £34.95 • €39.00

ISBN 9780674031661

Publication Date: 11/30/2008


384 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

18 halftones


Micale has done more than tell a good story… What Micale has accomplished is a tour de force of medical, cultural, and psychological detective work. In his hands, the three-thousand-year refusal of the medical world to acknowledge the existence of hysteria in any but females is proven to have a perfectly understandable psychoanalytic basis, but it has taken a scholar of wide-ranging intellectual background and enormous perspicacity to build, era by era, to its discovery and the construction of his impressively supported thesis. He has provided a model for other scholars to follow, not least in demonstrating by example that a historian of medicine must be also a historian of culture.—Sherwin B. Nuland, The New Republic

[A] fascinating book by historian Mark Micale, whose research is enriched by his extensive knowledge of European intellectual debates and his particular interest in France… If you are interested in the links between medicine and literature, if you are a student of gender or of mental health…you simply must buy this book.—Pauline M. Prior, Times Higher Education

Micale writes here about what he calls the ‘hidden history’ of male nervous illness, or hysteria, exploring its denial and theories in males from the early modern period through the early 20th century. The author of many other books and articles on hysteria, Micale ranges from incidents in England, France, and other parts of Europe to Frenchman Jean-Martin Charcot and Sigmund Freud, drawing on mostly primary sources, such as letters, diaries, essays, and novels, because the topic was excluded from mainstream historical resources. He concludes that ‘hysteria’ was mostly thought to be a woman’s disease and that the research period is one of missed opportunities, as male psychologists were incapable of seeing mental conditions in themselves. Micale acknowledges modern progress in ‘masculine self-understanding,&rddquo; though he admits that the process is still in development. An excellent book overall.—Leigh Mihlrad, Library Journal

‘Do not waste much time on hysteria in men. Leave hysteria to women and children,’ advised a German doctor in 1887 in response to noted French physician Jean-Martin Charcot’s notions that men could manifest hysteria. Micale has uncovered a wealth of information that rebuts much of the traditional medical and popular thinking about men and emotional distress. Micale charts nervous diseases in men from the 17th century until Freud. It was only in 1859, in a medical text by Pierre Briquet, that detailed attention was paid to male hysteria, and he noted that doctors didn’t see the condition because ‘they did not want to see it.’ Micale’s canvas is broad and, while the book has a history of science slant, it is also a work of cultural criticism, charting the changes in acceptable masculine affect, as exhibited in works like Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Micale brings much fascinating information together with élan.Publishers Weekly

Hysterical Men engages the problems and meanings associated with the gendering of mental illness as ‘male’ during the late nineteenth century. Micale’s account is clear, direct, and, more important, balanced in its reading of major figures involved in this debate, including that self-diagnosed hysteric Sigmund Freud—Sander L. Gilman, Emory University

Micale documents the evasions, suppressions, and distortions in medical investigations of this archetypal ‘female’ disorder for over three hundred years. This is a fully-realized cultural history of hysteria which opens to us a unique perspective on the interrelationships between Western medicine, the myriad literary representations of the disease, and the social history of gender since the seventeenth century—Robert A. Nye, Oregon State University

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

An excellent guide to the territory of male hysteria. Because he has so thoughtfully and self-consciously explored the elusiveness of male hysteria, Micale sees what the great modern explorer, Freud, saw when he was able to look—chiefly at himself. Micale’s book should be the prolegomena to any future study of male hysteria.—Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Columbia Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns, by Bruno Latour, translated by Catherine Porter, from Harvard University Press

Honoring Latour

In awarding Bruno Latour the 2021 Kyoto Prize for Arts and Philosophy, the Inamori Foundation said he has “revolutionized the conventional view of science” and “his philosophy re-examines ‘modernity’ based on the dualism of nature and society.” Below is an excerpt from An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns. For more than twenty years, scientific and technological controversies have proliferated in number and scope, eventually reaching the climate itself. Since geologists are beginning to use the term “Anthropocene” to designate the era of Earth’s history that follows the Holocene