Hysteria follows the early career of Sigmund Freud, from his training in neurological research to his establishment of a therapeutic practice in Vienna. Taking in the psychoanalyst’s earliest clinical experiences, his studies alongside Charcot at La Salpêtrière and his interest in the work of his friend and colleague Joseph Breuer, Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate introduce the characters and case histories that inspired the development of a revolutionary new clinical therapy.
Drawing on the case histories of “Anna O.”, Fräulein Elisabeth von R., and others, Hysteria shows Freud and his contemporaries developing ideas that would transform the intellectual landscape of the Western world. With a foreword by Deborah Levy, this is a masterly visual guide to the strange and fascinating characters that populate Freud and Breuer’s Studies in Hysteria, the founding text of psychoanalysis.
“What a wonderful book: clear and witty; beautifully drawn; by turns both disturbing and enlightening. Whether you know Freud or not, this will speak to your inner shrink.” – Rachel Cooke, The Observer
“Dark, delightful and deep, this brilliant graphic novel not only brings Freud’s case history to life but also raises crucial questions about contemporary approaches to human suffering. An inspiring and thought-provoking book.” – Darian Leader
Graphic biographies are entering a more mature, nuanced phase, demonstrated by Appignanesi's entry in the Graphic Freud series. He doesn't aim for a thumbnail encapsulation of a man's life work, as in Appignanesi's own For Beginners series. Instead, this book zeroes in on Freud's early career as an ambitious, fame-seeking therapist circling two problematic issues. First are the broad range of psychological and traumatic problems that clueless doctors in the late 1800s diagnosed as "hysteria" in many female patients. Appignanesi's chatty but studious narrative follows Freud from studying in Paris with neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot whose fixations on theatrical symptoms and the uterus as the cause of all his patients' problems were later debunked to his later incarnation as an empathetic (though still sexuality-fixated) explorer of the psyche. The second issue, Freud's insistence on the curative and non-addictive qualities of cocaine, is a sharp reflection on medical hubris. The backdrop of Freud's exile in London, after having fled the Nazis, adds a melancholic tone to the thoughtful text and Zarate's expressionistic renderings.