The nosographical category of hysteria dates back to ancient Greek medicine, which conceived of it as a female disease caused by the womb wandering throughout the body (in Greek hysteron means womb).
It was in the course of treating hysterical patients in the 1890s that Freud developed the psychoanalytical method of treatment (free association, etc.) and began to form the major concepts of psychoanalytic theory.
The classic symptomatology of hysteria involves physical symptoms such as local paralyses, pains and anaesthesias, for which no organic cause can be found, and which are articulated around an "imaginary autonomy" which bears no relation to the real structure of the nervous system.
The structure of desire, as desire of the Other, is shown more clearly in hysteria than in any other clinical structure; the hysteric is precisely someone who appropriates another's desire by identifying with them.
It is this privileged relation between the structure of desire and the structure of hysteria which explains why Lacan devotes so much attention to this clinical structure, and why he develops the idea in the 1970s that it is necessary, in psychoanalytic treatment, to "hystericize" the analysand.
Discourse of the Hysteric
- Freud, Sigmund. "Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria", 1905e. . SE VII, 3.
- Lacan, Jacques. 1951b. "Some Reflections on the Ego," Int. J. Psycho-Anal., vol. 34, 1953. p. 13
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 5
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.170-5
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.178
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 138
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.222
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XVII. L'envers de la psychanalyse, 19669-70. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 84