No, not Richard Pryor "hysterical." Mark S. Micale's new book takes on the other kind of hysteria, the kind that's been attributed mainly to women ever since crusty old Hippocrates described the malady as the unfortunate result of a "wandering uterus" (thanks for the oath, Hippocrates, perhaps we'll pass on the "wandering uterus" theory). In Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness, Micale locates the cracks in Western medicine's vision of the "stable and secure male"--a vision whose coherence rests, of course, on a converse notion of women as just the opposite, i.e. "hysterical"--and drives a big fat scholarly chisel into them. For hundreds of years, Micale shows, Western physicians have been covering up and explaining away signs of male weakness (how can men be hysterical, anyway, when THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE A UTERUS??) while simultaneously indulging in extravagant theorizing regarding the origins of perceived female weakness, over-emotionality, and madness. Some might even call their efforts, well, "hysterical."
Hysterical Men has found some review space in what we like to consider our natural home within the media landspace--the New York Times Sunday Styles Section. Therein, Holly Brubach sees in Micale's work an attestation that "researchers discover and doctors diagnose only those conditions that their culture allows them to find." Yup!
Image: Hans von Gersdorff, Fieldbook of medicine (1517). Treatment of a skull injury. Wood cut work attributed to Hans Wechtlin. Click to enlarge.