Currently, I'm working on my postdoctoral research project "The Hysteric as Conceptual Operator", which is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): [J 4164-G24] and conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Vienna (advisor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Arno Böhler).
The Hysteric as Conceptual Operator
An Exploration of the European–American Interactions in the Hysteric’s Performance and its transferences onto the Twenty-First Century
Mag.art Dr.phil Johanna Braun
While in Paris and Vienna around 1900, the hysterical girl was a well-studied object in arts and sciences, she re-appeared, a hundred years later, in countless manifestations in US mainstream horror films. The female hysteric in these current narratives references strikingly established representations of the hysteric as (public) performer that go back well beyond the European studies of the nineteenth century. It is interesting that while in 1994 the medical term hysteria was struck from the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it simultaneously reappeared as Histrionic Personality Disorder (Latin: histrio, actor/actress). This rebranding just further underlines my point: the female hysteric is therefore diagnosed as performer. Given this reintroduction, one may assume that the self-reflective media figure of the female hysteric will continue to gain ground in its cultural impact.
Although the history and evolution of the representation of hysteria have been extensively researched (Veith 1965, Gilman 1982, Shorter 1986, Micale 1995, Showalter 1997, Didi-Huberman 2003, Skull 2009, Cross 2010, Hustvedt 2011), the study of how these discourses have been transferred to twenty-first-century US popular culture is still uncharted territory. My project’s main focus is the way in which the current popular figure intervenes, gets involved in and performs individual sociopolitical discourse strands. Therefore my project is located on the intersection of hysteria, cultural, (American) horror film and performance studies.
While building on feminist horror film scholarship (Creed 1993, Clover 1993) this project is advocating for an expansion of the theoretical “toolbox” in analyzing women in horror film. Michel Foucault’s discourse analysis provides me with the necessary critical tools to analyze the hysteric’s performance from the twin perspectives of cultural studies and philosophy. Specific discourse strains will furthermore be analyzed using the necessary theoretical equipment (e.g. of gender, post-colonial, disabilities studies).
Furthermore, as a result of performance studies being a paradigm-driven field, my project is divided into two research stages: During the first phase, I will follow the hysteric’s performance as object of inquiry. In the course of a classic film methodology of close analysis, I will analyze the diverse discourse strands of the current representation from a cultural studies perspective and will be able to put the current phenomenon in its (historical) context. In the second phase, I will expand my research scope and focus on performance studies as a primary analytical concept. The emerging field of Performance Philosophy (confer: Philosophy on Stage 2005–, [soundcheck philosophie] 2011–, Performance Philosophy 2012–) will provide my project with the necessary philosophical tools to analyze in-depth the hysteric’s performance.