Hysteria: Graphic Freud

Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate. Abrams/SelfMadeHero, $24.95 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-906838-99-7
Graphic biographies are entering a more mature, nuanced phase, demonstrated by Appignanesi's entry in the Graphic Freud series. He doesn't aim for a thumbnail encapsulation of a man's life work, as in Appignanesi's own For Beginners series. Instead, this book zeroes in on Freud's early career as an ambitious, fame-seeking therapist circling two problematic issues. First are the broad range of psychological and traumatic problems that clueless doctors in the late 1800s diagnosed as "hysteria" in many female patients. Appignanesi's chatty but studious narrative follows Freud from studying in Paris with neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot—whose fixations on theatrical symptoms and the uterus as the cause of all his patients' problems were later debunked—to his later incarnation as an empathetic (though still sexuality-fixated) explorer of the psyche. The second issue, Freud's insistence on the curative and non-addictive qualities of cocaine, is a sharp reflection on medical hubris. The backdrop of Freud's exile in London, after having fled the Nazis, adds a melancholic tone to the thoughtful text and Zarate's expressionistic renderings. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/2016
Release date: 11/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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