While hypochondria, due to the medical legacy of classical antiquity, had long been primarily connected to forms of indisposition originating in the stomach or its environment, its semantic scope grew considerably during the eighteenth century. By intersecting, amongst others, with the emergent and highly influential discourse of nervous sensibility, which in turn was inextricably enmeshed with the era’s political, social and cultural contexts, hypochondria, by the Romantic age, had become as protean as the very contexts to which it referred. More than that, it had become expressive of an uncontrollable excess of order: it was a dis-order that inherently resisted ultimate definitions. As George C. Grinnell writes: “It is difficult to declare with confidence what hypochondria is because the disorder is invested in the imagination, volition and compulsion, ways of fashioning the self, and even the body’s susceptibility to unpredictable fluctuations and degradations that mark health as, at best, a temporary state.” (p. 4) In other words, precisely because hypochondria came to be considered to be a malady that indeed did have a physiological basis but at the same time made its victims imagine they suffered from diseases they actually did not have, the meaning of health itself became contested. This was problematic because for a society that had to regularly cope with threats of political and ideological disorder since the American and French revolutions, and for which the condition of being at war had become chronic, physical and mental ‘health’ had themselves become signs of ‘order’ and ‘normalcy’, not merely with respect to each individual but also the nation’s body politic.
|Ausgabe / Jahr:||1 / 2013|
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