Project Title: Constructing a properly scientific hypnotism in late-nineteenth-century France: A cultural and intellectual history

Principal Advisor: Professor Peter Cryle

Project Abstract: Late nineteenth-century France is arguably unique in producing a hypnotism with serious positivist scientific pretensions. Typically construed as either a precursor to psychoanalysis or a corollary of hysteria, hypnotism’s scientific heyday c. 1878-1893 merits study in its own right. This thesis provides that attention, probing the cultural and intellectual context of attempts to constitute hypnotism as properly scientific, through close textual study of key works in scientific and literary discourses of the time. It interrogates the critical issues at stake both in claiming and defending hypnotism’s scientificity, and in interaction/s between scientific and literary discourses. Literature, it will be argued, is apt to trouble the assumptions and discursive structure underlying scientific efforts to legitimate hypnotism, raising questions of whether, ultimately, hypnotism can be constrained by the boundaries of positivist science.

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