Hosting Hysteria

Research output: Contributions to books, editions, reports or conference proceedingsChapterpeer-review



The synoptic table of hysterical symptoms is an index of tiny drawn shapes set out in columns, like a manuscript of some kind. It was developed under Dr Charcot at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris in the nineteenth century. These drawings categorise the stages of “La grande hysterie” in their female patients. A few years later, Sigmund Freud, Charcot’s pupil, popularised the writing format of the clinical case history, revealing not only conditions and treatments, but the profound relation between patient and analyst, a relation mediated by transference. But Charcot’s inscription of symptoms, as Freud’s narrations, is a text that speaks in the doctor’s voice: “Période de clownisme, Période des attitudes passionelles, Période de délire” (Didi-Huberman 2003: 119). And yet she, the hysteric, is miming something beyond what the images and words capture, using gesture, movement and voice to act out, in the psychoanalytic sense: “If past events are repressed from memory, they return by expressing themselves in actions; when the subject does not remember the past, therefore, he is condemned to repeat it by acting it out” (Evans 1996: 2-3).

In order to find out what this something beyond words and drawings is, I have developed an intersemiotic translation method which I call “gHosting”, a play of words referring to the hosting of a ghost in my own body. Through it, I rediscover the hysteric patient’s voice within the extant historical and hysterical clinical material: written case histories of Freud and others, drawings and photographs at the Salpêtrière, modern training videos. I apply the method to the creation of performance work, one-to-one durational pieces and dances. The women at the Salpêtrière have more to tell us than it initially appears. Starting with Freud’s case histories and Charcot’s drawings as source, I find Augustine, Emmy von N. and Dora in between the written and traced lines, and listen attentively. They inhabit my body, the body of the performer, and in this new location, they are able to set their voices free to encounter members of the audience (you), to tell them their story.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTranslating across Sensory and Linguistic Borders
Subtitle of host publicationIntersemiotic Journeys between Media
EditorsMadeleine Campbell, Ricarda Vidal
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-97243-5
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 28 Jan 2019

Author keywords

  • translation, hysteria, hospitality, mimesis, performance