Laura Gonzalez


3 Nov 2011

Hysteria, Dora and perversion

Here is a little more of my current jumbled thinking on hysteria and perversion, influenced by what I have been reading.

Sharon Kivland’s work A Case of Hysteria is a feminine detective story telling of a dependence to Freud’s case history (which I also suffer from, and I have been trying to avoid speaking of Dora until now). In Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, published in 1905, Freud writes of his encounter with an 18 year-old patient whom he saw for only three months, after which she flew, abandoning treatment. Dora, whose real name is Ida Bauer has aphonia. She has lost her voice but there is no physical reason why this may be so.

The case is famous for two reasons: first, because he discovered the power of transference (the love relation between a patient and her doctor) and, second, because it was a failure. You can read about the case directly from Freud, or from Jed Rubenfeld, who, in the Interpretation of Murder, gave a rather trashy, B-series but very perversely enjoyable fictional account, which makes the links between Freud’s case histories and detective cases admirably.

Claire Pajaczkowska also revisited Freud’s most famous case in a film.


And then, there is perversion …

Kivland’s most recent work Le cri de la soie is also related to the nineteenth century, which, together with hysteria, saw the rise of female perversion, especially in relation to the touch of fabrics such as velvet, silk and velour and the consequent public display of pleasure that ensued. The materiality of the object was the conduit to the psychical manifestation of symptoms, and the result was their internment in psychiatric penitentiary units, accused of kleptomania. Gaétan Gatien De Clérambeau tells about these women in his work Passion érotique des étoffes pour la femme.

Are perverts so far away from hysterics? Freud and Lacan see them as opposites in their relation to questioning and fantasy. I guess this is something I will find out in my project, as it is my main concern. The performativity of hysteria, its exhibitionism is a pervert trait but that has not been addressed by analysts. Artists, as you can see, have had a go. Which is where I am heading.

Posted in Blog, Hysteria, Inspiration, Psychoanalysis, Reading, Watching

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About Me

I am an artist and writer. My recent practice performance, film, dance, photography and text, and my work has been performed, exhibited and published in many venues in Europe and the US. I have spoken at numerous conferences and events, including the Museum for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, College Arts Association and the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. When I am not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with my camera or creating performance works as part of my Athenaeum Research Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I teach postgraduate students at Transart Institute.

I am currently immersed in an interdisciplinary project exploring knowledge and the body of the hysteric. In 2013, together with Child and Adolescent Mental Health practitioner Frances Davies, I co-edited the book ‘Madness, Women and the Power of Art’, to which I contributed a work authored with Eleanor Bowen. My book ‘Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces’ was published by Cambridge Scholars in 2016. In this text, investigates psychoanalytic approaches to making and understanding objects of seduction, including an examination of parallels between artistic and analytic practices, a study of Manolo Blahnik’s shoes as objects of desire, a disturbing encounter with Marcel Duchamp’s last work, and the creation of a psychoanalytically inspired Discourse of the Artefact, a framework enabling the circulation of questions and answers through a relational approach to artworks.