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Opening the biscuit tin: Piecing together the fragments in two cases of hysteria


Green, WJ, Opening the biscuit tin: Piecing together the fragments in two cases of hysteria, Life Writing, 9, (2) pp. 173-190. ISSN 1448-4528 (2012) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 Taylor & Francis

DOI: doi:10.1080/14484528.2012.667901


Luce Irigaray contends that patriarchy is founded on symbolic matricide, and that this has had devastating consequences, particularly for women. Therefore, she argues, ‘we need to find, rediscover, invent’ a maternal genealogy. For many feminists, the marginalised figure of the madwoman has represented a discursive gap, through which they might do just that. ‘Dora’, in particular, as the beguiling subject of Freud's ‘fragmented’ study of hysteria has fascinated feminist theorists and artists for decades. This paper reconsiders this fascination, in conjunction with stories told in my family about my great-grandmother Alice, a woman diagnosed with ‘hysteria’ in north Queensland some 20 years after Freud published ‘Dora’. I take up Barthes’ work on mythology, to explore the way both constructions of hysteria, the public and the private, have functioned as mythic practices, enabling women to re-construct their selves. In the case of my great-grandmother, generations of women have re-construed her story from the old photographs, bits of cloth and jewellery that Alice's daughter kept in an old Arnott's biscuit tin. Reflecting on these practices via Barthes, I suggest that the more threadbare our mother-stories are, the more they offer those who care to rework them.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:hysteria; life-writing; psychoanalysis; feminism
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Gender studies
Research Field:Gender studies not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Other culture and society
Objective Field:Other culture and society not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Green, WJ (Dr Wendy Green)
ID Code:122050
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Curriculum and Academic Development
Deposited On:2017-10-27
Last Modified:2018-05-04

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