La teatralización de la histeria en el espectáculo clínico decimonónico: Jean-Martin Charcot y la Salpêtrière (1870-1893)

At the end of the 19th century, Parisian society found in the clinical spectacle a singular popular entertainment: the Salpêtrière hospital, under the direction of neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893), did weekly exhibitions of hysterical women in front of an amphitheater with hundreds of attendees. In this hospital service, with a growing number of cases of female hysteria, the disorder is monopolized and manipulated through theatrical and spectacular mechanisms. Charcot's famous "leçons" become a popular entertainment that all the newspapers comment on, and the disease on stage is theatricalized within a clinical framework, where the hysterical body is exposed before an audience eager for spectacularity. This thesis offers an analysis of the para-theatrical processes that lead to the stardom of the Salpêtrière establishment and its reception through contemporary chronicles that comment in amazement on an excessive and circus-like hysterical representation. Hysteria becomes an intersection of controversies where simulation is an essential element of corporal expression, which leads the spectator to wonder about the acting condition of these women, to find out if the vedettes, the most famous and renowned hysterics in the whole city, are real actresses or if their suffering is truthful. The processes of scenic mimesis, in which Charcot's service formulates a structure parallel to that of dramatic creation, turn the medical exhibition into a profitable spectacle that provides them with fame and renown, but also with satire and attacks from the critics. These mechanisms are formulated through a textual production, a script that must be rehearsed and reproduced on stage, and which copies the style and dialogic structure of the theater, in addition to structuring precise and striking theatrical mechanics. Once perfected, this text becomes performance and movement in the stalls where the doctor is a "metteur en scène" who controls the sick and the medical characters. His stage, named after him, is the Charcot Amphithéâtre, where all the elements direct the audience's gaze towards a single central point of view, full of artistic nuances and dramatic references. This classroom is located in a hospital described as a chaotic and confusing city, in which stories and tales take place and are striking for their uniqueness, whether through overtly sexual narratives, demonic and mystical mysteries or annual festive events in which public and "folles" mix. The clinical space is then greatly influenced by the semes of theatrical performance, and its social presence demonstrates the particular interest in notoriety and spectacle that makes Charcot a contested figure and hysteria a polymorphous and enigmatic event.
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