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Grant number like: FB-54132-09

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Helen L. Horowitz
Smith College (Northampton, MA 01063-6304)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2009 – 12/31/2009

A Case of the Nerves

My study examines late-19th century American nervousness labeled neurasthenia or hysteria with acute episodes called nervous prostration or nervous breakdown. In this era American physicians emphasized the important role of the body, especially the nerves, in what is today called mental illness. As a cultural historian I explore the nervous body as those in the late nineteenth century envisioned it. In preparation I researched nineteenth-century medical books and journals. After research into many manuscript collections I am selecting five case studies to explore in depth the subjects' experience of psychological problems in the context of the era's understandings of the relation of body and mind. What did those suffering from such ailments feel? What words did they use? What was the relation of their communication and the language of neurologists? My book will offer a critical intersection where the biological person meets the ideas and practices of the age.