couple. Brian O'Doherty's The Strange Case of Mademoiselle P. is a fictionalization of actual events set in early nineteenth century Vienna in which a young woman, struck at age three by blindness, is "cured" by the magnetizing therapies of Franz Anton Mesmer, but plunged back into darkness when returned to the pathogenic family environment that had ostensibly provoked her psychosomatic blindness in the first place. Finally, Furst treats the reader to a bravura analysis of Pat Barker's Regeneration, in which most of the personnel of the western front, and the doctors who treated them, are afflicted with some degree of psychosomatic disorder, owing to the huge disparity between the ideals of young fighters and the bitter realities of trench warfare. This novel is a veritable feast for the student of representations of psychosomatic illness in literature, and Furst does not fail to exploit it to the full. The drive to apply medical diagnoses to literary works, as has been done previously with hysteria, syphilis, tuberculosis, and other illnesses, is only useful if it deepens and complicates interpretations and does not force them into a procrustean bed of disease syndromes. The elegance and insight of Furst's search for instances
Comparative Literature Studies – Penn State University Press
Published: Mar 27, 2005
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