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In 1862 the Salpetriere Hospital in Paris became the epicenter of the study of hysteria, the mysterious illness then thought to affect half of all women. There, prominent neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot's contentious methods caused furore within the church and divided the medical community. Treatments included hypnosis, piercing and the evocation of demons and, despite the controversy they caused, the experiments became a fascinating and fashionable public spectacle. Medical Muses tells the stories of the women institutionalised in the Salpetriere. Theirs is a tale of science and ideology, medicine and the occult, of hypnotism, sadism, love and theatre. Combining hospital records, municipal archives, memoirs and letters, Medical Muses sheds new light on a crucial moment in psychiatric history.
Asti Hustvedt is an independent scholar who has written extensively on hysteria and literature. She has a PhD in French literature from New York University, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a Phi Betta Kapa Fellowship. She is the editor of The Decadent Reader: Fiction, Fantasy and Perversion from Fin-de-Siecle France and has published many translations. She lives in New York City.