chapter
13 Pages

INTRODUCTION

The archiving isn't only pictorial. The Iconographies also record many of Augustine's utterances during attacks and provoked by drugs such as ether or amyl nitrate (to which she herself despairingly refers). How fast did these scribes write? Handwriting is far slower than the batteryfire of hysteric babble. Did they take poetic licence, or were her speeches so recurrent in theme and content that it was easy to keep track? Such ardent archivists! What industry! And all this commissioned by Professor Charcot himself. As Director of the Salpetriere, he established these 19th century recording studios at the hospital in an effort to wrench his profession away from age-old superstition and prove, with all this elaborate evidence, a pathology of hysteria beyond the congenital, the hereditary and the organic. In short, and I shall return to this later, Charcot was beginning to prove hysteria was in the patient's mind:

According to the Iconographies Augustine was the child of domestic servants, farmed out to relatives until the age of six, from which time she spent seven years in a convent. Evidently a bright, rebellious and precocious child, she was deeply traumatised by severe punishment administered to her by priests and nuns - "the slammer" as she herself called it and, on occasion, exorcism by dousing in ice-cold water. Augustine was suspected of being possessed by the Devil, then a common diagnosis of unmanageable Catholic girls. (It is worth noting here that Charcot was to become obsessed with the connections he first sighted between hysteria and demonic possession, using his vast

knowledge of classical art for this and publishing in 1886 a fascinating study of his research in La Demoniaque dans l' art (Demonic Possession in Art). 5 This research had far-reaching implications:

"Charcot's widely publicized contribution to the hysteria diagnosis, which increased dramatically during his tenure as hospital director, were for him and his followers a way of attacking demonic possession and religious ecstacy, and of getting institutional control of hospitals and schools taken away from the Catholic Church. That is, Charcot's work on hysteria contributed to an anti-clerical campaign promoting the triumph of positivism".