New book announcement – Monkey Mind. A Memoir of Anxiety

Daniel Smith. Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety (Simon and Schuster, 2012)

For more see here

SSHM Conference 2012: Emotions, Health, and Wellbeing (London)

SSHM Conference 2012: Emotions, Health, and Wellbeing
In conjunction with QMUL’s Centre for the History of the Emotions
Queen Mary, University of London, 10–12 September 2012

Monday 10 September
9.00 Registration
9.30 Plenary lecture
Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck University of London)
[Title to be confirmed]
10.45 Coffee
11.00 Panel sessions
Medieval England
Katherine Harvey (King’s College London)
Episcopal emotions: weeping in the life of the medieval bishop
Rebecca McNamara (University of Sydney)
Fever, madness, anguish: suicide and the emotions in thirteenth-century English legal records
Ioana Balgradean (University of Geneva)
Corporeity, emotion, and medieval poetics
Fiction and Philosophy
Lina Minou (Loughborough University)
Envy as pathology and eighteenth-century fiction
Neil MacFarlane (Birkbeck College)
Phrenology, mesmerism, and the reptilian personality in Little Dorrit
Demelza Hookway (University of Exeter)
John Stuart Mill and the ‘perfect disease’ of sensitiveness
Managing the Emotions in the History of Nursing
Julie Anderson (University of Kent)
‘Suited to Nurse Officers and Men’: character, emotion, and disability in the First World War
Rosemary Wall (Imperial College London)
Marriages made in Empire: a motivation, recruitment strategy, and retention problem for nursing in the British Empire
Natasha McEnroe (The Florence Nightingale Museum)
From personality to profession: emotions running high in the Florence Nightingale Museum
Managing Emotions through Chemistry: Psychoactive Drugs since 1945
Matthew Smith (University of Strathclyde)
From energising ‘oldsters’ to calming children: Ritalin and the marketing of mental illness
Alison Haggett (University of Exeter)
‘Father’s little helper’: the pharmacological treatment of anxiety and depression in post-war men
Leah Songhurst (University of Exeter)
St John’s Wort: a ‘conventional alternative’ for treating mild to moderate depression
Children and Cancer
Robin Rohrer (Seton Hill University)
Emotion and the childhood cancer journey in the United States, 1930 to the present
Clare Parker (University of Adelaide)
The innocent child: initial responses to the thalidomide tragedy
Carsten Timmermann (University of Manchester)
‘Just give me the best quality of life questionnaire’: measuring the unmeasurable in cancer chemotherapy
12.30 Lunch
1.30 Panel sessions
Music and Emotion
Penelope Gouk (University of Manchester)
‘One of the greatest pleasures on earth’: music and wellbeing in the Enlightenment
Wiebke Thormählen (University of Southampton)
Lamenting at the piano: domestic music-making, wellbeing and mental health in eighteenth-century Britain
James Kennaway (Durham University)
Animal spirits, tubes and vibrating chords: models of nervous function and theories of music and emotion in eighteenth-century aesthetics and medicine
Hospital Settings
Matthew Newsom Kerr (Santa Clara University)
Public sphere, public’s fear: London isolation hospitals and the local politics of resistance, 1870–1900
Michael Brown (University of Roehampton)
A theatre of emotions: compassion and dispassion in early nineteenth-century surgery
Jon Arrizabalaga (Spanish National Research Council, Barcelona) and Guillermo Sánchez-Martínez (Navarra Public University)
Caring for wounded soldiers’ emotional wellbeing: humanitarian relief in the Spanish Second Carlist War (1872–76)
Wellbeing in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Janet Greenlees (Glasgow Caledonian University)
To provide ‘social services irrespective of class, creed or colour’: the Church of Scotland and the politics of wellbeing, c.1900–70
Petteri Pietikainen (University of Oulu)
From politicization to individualization of wellbeing in Finland, c.1970–2000
Annelie Drakman (Uppsala University)
Swedish provincial doctors’ reports of emotional hindrances for improving the peasantry’s health in the nineteenth century
Feeling Female
Katherine Angel (University of Warwick)
Post-feminist ontologies? Female sexual dysfunction, 1960–present
Lesley Hall (Wellcome Library)
‘Sentimental follies’ or ‘instruments of tremendous uplift’? Contrasting views of women’s same-sex relationships in interwar Britain
Martha Kirby (University of Glasgow)
Feeling fat: medical treatment of obesity and feminist cultural theory, 1945–90
Affect: The Ghost in the Machine
Matei Iagher (University College London)
‘The Emperor’s New Clothes?’: Pathologies of religious affect in the French psychology of religion (1901–38)
Sarah Chaney (University College London)
On the borderland: affect and attention-seeking in hysterical malingering
Andreas Sommer (University College London)
Exorcising the ghost from the machine: affect, emotion, and the enlightened naturalization of the ‘poltergeist’
Sarah Marks (University College London)
‘The Golem made real’: cybernetics, automatic machines and the reinterpretation of affect in Cold War Czechoslovakia
3.00 Tea
3.30 Panel sessions
Medieval Passions
Paola Baseotto (Insubria University)
Plague epidemics and emotion in early modern England
Kirsi Kanerva (University of Turku)
Bodily disturbances: emotion and disease in medieval Iceland
Fernando Salmón (University of Cantabria)
Joy as a therapeutic asset in medieval medicine
Medical Training and Practice
Tricia Close-Koenig (University of Strasbourg)
Supply and demand. The economic history of a medical school pathological anatomy laboratory
Sejal Patel (National Institute of Health)
Social cohesion and social support: comprehensive medicine and the re-formulation of general practice in the United States, 1950 to 1970
Laura Kelly (National University of Ireland, Galway)
Fear in the dissecting room: anatomy dissections and student experience at Irish universities in the early twentieth century
The Boundaries of the Family: Emotions and Wellbeing in Post-War Britain
Angela Davis (University of Warwick)
Promoting physical health and emotional wellbeing: childcare practice in local health authority day nurseries after World War Two
Laura King (University of Warwick)
Falling in love at first sight: masculinity, fatherhood, and childbirth in Britain in the post-war period
Claire Sewell (University of Warwick)
‘Schizophrenia has a “shattering effect” on families’: the emotional responses of familial carers of schizophrenia in post-war Britain
Locating Emotions in the Body: Transnational Perspectives on the Treatment of Emotional Disorders in East Asian Medicine
Volker Scheid (University of Westminster)
Depression, constraint, and the liver: (dis)assembling the treatment of emotion-related disorders in Chinese medicine
Keiko Daidoji (University of Keio)
Are emotions tangible? The conceptual and therapeutic transformation of emotion-related disorders in Japanese Kampo medicine
Eric Karchmer (University of Westminster)
The excitations and suppressions of the times: locating emotional disorders in the liver in modern Chinese medicine
Soyoung Suh (Dartmouth College)
Korean doctors between hwa-byung (fire-illness) and depression, 1930–2010
6.30 Reception at the Wellcome Library, London
Tuesday 11 September
9.00 Panel sessions
Early Modern Passions I
Lauren Johnson (Past Pleasures Ltd.)
‘Mirth is one of the chiefest things of Physick’: the importance of laughter to the health of Henry VIII’s court
Hanako Endo (Jissen Women’s University)
Bloodletting and the control of passion in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
Susan Mills (Grant MacEwan University)
‘A fever caused by sadness’: a ‘mechanist’s’ psychosomatic medicine in the 1643–49 correspondence between René Descartes and Princess Elisabeth
Graeme Gooday (University of Leeds) and Karen Sayer (Leeds Trinity University College)
‘Out in the cold’: hearing loss, technology, and the politics of wellbeing
Emily Andrews (University of Warwick)
‘Freed from thraldom to passion’: emotion and old age nineteenth-century Britain
Paul Van Trigt (VU University Amsterdam)
Normal or exceptional? The emotional and sensitive blind in modern history
Military Emotions
Kellen Kurschinski (McMaster University)
Restoring body and mind: managing the emotions of disabled Canadian soldiers through occupational therapy and physical rehabilitation, 1915–23
Edgar Jones (King’s College London)
The mystery of medically unexplained symptoms: the soldier’s body as proxy for distress
Niklaus Ingold (University of Zurich)
Light showers in the dark: UV radiation, physical culture, and the wellbeing of the Wehrmacht in the Norwegian Arctic during World War Two
Emergent Psychiatric Categories
Chris Millard (Queen Mary, University of London)
‘Stress’, ‘distress’, and suicide attempts: 1960s psychiatry and an emotional continuum
Felicity Callard (Durham University)
From agoraphobia to panic disorder: disputes over anxiety in Anglo-American psychiatry from the 1960s to the 1980s
Emilia Musumeci (University of Catania)
Lacking in empathy: from morally insane to psychopath
Fertility and Motherhood
Barbara Brookes (University of Otago)
Managing parental emotions: disability in the new born
Gayle Davis (University of Edinburgh)
Desperately seeking motherhood: medical responses to the infertile patient in mid twentieth-century Scotland
Julianne Weis (University of Oxford)
Maternal wellbeing: conflicted origins of labour pain
10.30 Coffee
11.00 Plenary lecture
William Reddy (Duke University)
Striving to feel: the centrality of effort in the history of emotions
12.15 Lunch
1.30 Panel sessions
Early Modern Passions II
Elena Carrera (Queen Mary, University of London)
Provoking anger to restore health: medieval and Renaissance medical views
Tessa Storey (Royal Holloway, University of London)
‘It is the duty of the diligent doctor to investigate just how deeply this passion has penetrated his soul’: managing melancholy in late sixteenth-century Rome
Marlen Bidwell-Steiner (University of Vienna)
Bespoke Spanish passions in the early modern period
Death and Grief: Ireland, 1641–1936
Clodagh Tait (Mary Immaculate College)
‘Whereat his wife tooke great greef & died’: dying of sorrow and anger in seventeenth-century Ireland
David J Butler (University of Limerick)
Memorialising the Irish abroad: obituaries in nineteenth-century Irish newspapers
Ciara Breathnach (University of Limerick) and Eunan O’Halpin (Trinity College Dublin)
Concealing pain: evidence from coroners’ reports of the infant dead, 1919–36
Psychiatry and Patients
Vicky Long (Glasgow Caledonian University)
Resettling the long-stay patient into social life: psychiatric rehabilitation in post-war Britain
Jennifer Walke (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
He’s not the Messiah? Diagnosing the therapeutic community
Hazel Morrison (University of Glasgow)
Moral imbecility and patient narratives within the confines of 1920s Gartnavel (Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital)
Rosa García-Orellán (Navarra Public University)
From ‘death foretold’ to ‘death unspoken’
Kathryn Ecclestone (University of Birmingham)
Psychologising the ‘vulnerable’ human subject? Shifts and continuities in political discourses of human behaviour change and emotional wellbeing
Adrian Howe (Queen Mary, University of London)
Othello and his syndrome
Emotional Behaviours
Hannah Newton (University of Cambridge)
‘Like rogues out of gaol’: spiritual responses to recovery from illness in early modern England
Lindsey Fitzharris (Queen Mary, University of London)
Cutting through the fear: the criminal dissected, 1751–1832
Catherine Marshall (University of Sheffield)
Emotion and verbally abusive behaviour in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England
3.00 Tea
3.30 Panel sessions
Picturing Emotion
Elena Bonesi (University of Bologna)
Plague in art: some notes on the iconography of the sick body in early modern Italy
Susanna Ferlito (University of Minnesota)
Photographing female resentment: Countess Virginia Verasis di Castiglione’s clinical gaze
Anja Laukötter (Max Planck Institute for Human Development)
The politics of emotions in the medium of film
Emotions as Collective Experiences
Nike Fakiner (Spanish National Research Council, Madrid)
The decency of view: Zeiller’s anatomical museum and the general public
Fanny H Brotons (Spanish National Research Council, Madrid)
Shame, guilt and hope(lessness) in Spanish cancer sufferers of the second half of the nineteenth century
Juan Manuel Zaragoza (independent scholar)
Love, guilt, and resentment: marriage, illness, and the disturbing experience of care (1890–1910)
Public Health and the Management of Fear
Patricia Marsh (Queen’s University, Belfast)
Belfast’s own ‘Typhoid Mary’: the control of healthy typhoid ‘carriers’ in Belfast
Mark Honigsbaum (Zurich University)
‘A sense of dread is very general’: the First World War, the ‘Spanish’ flu, and the Northcliffe press
Alexia Moncrieff (University of Adelaide)
Disease and emotion in the Australian Imperial Force in the First World War
Extra-European Contexts
Rampaul Chamba (Open University)
The inter-generational transmission of psychic trauma: black African-Caribbean responses to ethnic disparities in schizophrenia
Ayesha Nathoo (University of Cambridge)
Appealing for humanity: the production and reception of the Disasters Emergency Committee’s 2011 East Africa crisis appeal
Arnel Joven (University of the Philippines)
‘The will to live!’ and other miracle cures: emotional support in the healing and survival among lowland civilians in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation period, 1941–45
Homesick Men
Thomas Dodman (Boston College)
Nostalgia: a deadly emotion at the time of the French Revolution
David Anderson (Swansea University)
Home is where the heart is: nostalgia as an emotional disease during the American Civil War
Susan Matt (Weber State University)
The transformation of nostalgia in the US Armed Forces, 1865–1945
5.15 Plenary lecture
Mark Jackson (University of Exeter)
The secret places of the heart
6.30 Conference reception and banquet
Wednesday 12 September
9.00 Panel sessions
Passions and the people
Arto Ruuska (University of Helsinki)
Thomas Trotter on the role of sociality and social passions in the development and treatment of the habit of drunkenness
Mariana Saad (Queen Mary, University of London)
‘To subjugate passion’ or ‘to restore harmony in the organs of sentiment’? The unspoken opposition between Pinel and Cabanis
Ross Macfarlane (Wellcome Library)
Blue beads, barrow boys, and bronchitis: negotiating the emotions in Edward Lovett’s folklore collection
Crime and Punishment
Willemijn Ruberg (Utrecht University)
Emotional tactics. Affect and Dutch forensic medicine in the nineteenth century
Victoria Bates (University of Exeter)
‘Perfectly collected’: emotional responses to sexual crime, 1850–1914
Jade Shepherd (Queen Mary, University of London)
‘The fiendish rack of jealousy’: murder, insanity, and Broadmoor in Victorian England
Public Health, Mental Health
Rob Boddice (Freie Universität, Berlin)
Tyranny of compassion? The moral economy of vaccination in Britain, 1867–98
Sun-Young Park (Harvard University)
Rehabilitating minds and bodies: emotions, hygiene, and school architecture in Paris, 1815–48
Bodily Health and Wellbeing
Stephanie Snow (University of Manchester)
Individual experience, public activism, and stroke, 1990s–2000s
Antje Kampf and Jeannette Madarász-Lebenhagen (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)
Medico-politics of gendered wellbeing: the case of cardiovascular prevention in East and West Germany, 1949–69
Leonie De Goei (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences)
Getting to grips with emotions in the sixties. Letters to Doctor Trimbos.
10.30 Coffee
11.00 Plenary session
Chaired by Fay Bound Alberti (Wellcome Trust)
Roundtable: Impact and Public Engagement
12.30 Lunch
1.30 Panel sessions
Networks and Markets
Anna Maerker (King’s College London)
From fear to fun: emotions, crowds, and the marketing of anatomical models
Elizabeth Connolly (University of Adelaide)
Will Atkins and the ‘envious’ people who ‘hate’ his medicines
From Melancholy and Despair to Depression: Continuity and Change
David Lederer (National University of Ireland,Maynooth)
Mood disorders in early modern Europe
Åsa Jansson (Queen Mary, University of London)
‘Mental pain’ and ‘depression of spirits’: the standardisation of biomedical melancholia in Victorian medicine
Georgina Laragy (National University of Ireland,Maynooth)
War, emotion, and suicide in the twentieth century
Maria Teresa Brancaccio (University of Maastricht)
The management of sadness: classifications of depressive disorders in the twentieth century
Comparative Perspectives
Dan Malleck (Brock University)
Feeling no pain? The changing language of drug and alcohol habituation in the Anglo-American world, 1867–1908
Martin Messika (University Paris I Sorbonne/University of Quebec)
Immigrants’ ‘emotions’ and social work: North African Jews in Paris and Montreal compared (1956–76)
Katherine Foxhall (King’s College London)
Emotions in the history of migraine
Bettina Hitzer (Max Planck Institute for Human Development)
Cancer and the feeling body. Psychosomatic explanations in post-1945 Germany and the United States
Valerie Harrington (University of Manchester)
Irritable mind or irritable bowel? The role of emotion in Irritable Bowel Syndrome
2.00 onwards Optional museum visits
3.00 SSHM AGM; and European Association for the History of Medicine and Health (EAHMH) committee meetings
4.30 End of conference
[programme last updated 12 July 2012]

For more information:

SSHM Conference 2012: Emotions, Health, and Wellbeing

SSHM Conference 2012: Emotions, Health, and Wellbeing

10-12 September 2012, London

The Society for the Social History of Medicine (SSHM) hosts a major, biennial, international, interdisciplinary conference. In 2012, it is being held in conjunction with the Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions, on the theme ‘Emotions, Health and Wellbeing’. The conference investigates the intimate relationship between the emotions and medicine, addressing a wide variety of periods and places.

Our plenary speakers are Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck), Mark Jackson (Exeter), and William Reddy (Duke); a full conference programme is available on the conference website and we will also be running a number of excursions to local museums of interest for delegates. We hope you will be able to join us for what promises to be a rich and fascinating conference.

New Issue: NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin

The second issue for 2012 of NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin is now online and includes an article by Waltraud Ernst entitled The Indianization of Colonial Medicine. The Case of Psychiatry in Early-Twentieth-Century British India. The abstract reads:

Anders als die weitgehend in der Geschichtsschreibung belegte psychiatrische Anstalt für Europäer und Europäerinnen mit ihrem englischen Leiter Owen Berkeley-Hill ist die weitaus größere Institution für indische Patienten und Patientinnen im nordindischen Ranchi bisher nicht untersucht worden. Im Mittelpunkt dieses Beitrags steht die Karriere des Leiters dieser Institution, Jal E. Dhunjibhoy, zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts als von der britischen Kolonialregierung eine Indianisierung der medizinischen Einrichtungen angestrebt wurde. Im Gegensatz zu bisherigen Studien über intermediaries und middles konzentriert sich dieser Aufsatz auf einen hochrangigen einheimischen Mitarbeiter. Die verbreitete Annahme zwangsläufiger historischer Prozesse wird dabei differenziert, eine regionale Kontextualisierung vorgenommen und die Kontinuität offener und versteckter Diskriminierung indischer Mediziner in Bezug auf Entlohnung, gesellschaftliche Stellung, fachliche Anerkennung, posthume Würdigung und historiographischer Berücksichtigung herausgearbeitet. Es wird verdeutlicht, in welcher Weise koloniale Akteure in bestehende gesellschaftliche Disparitäten und soziopolitische Prozessen verstrickt waren und wie die Karriere eines leitenden Mediziners von einer Vielzahl von außermedizinischen Zusammenhängen bestimmt wurde. Gleichzeitig wird hervorgehoben, dass ihre strukturelle Positionierung als inbetweens, Kollaborateure oder Repräsentanten einer erfolgreichen Dekolonisierung für ein nuancierteres Verständnis ihrer beruflichen und persönlichen Identitätsformierung nicht ausreicht.

New issue: JHBS

The Summer 2012 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online and includes an article by Bonnie Evans and Edgar Jones entitled “ORGAN EXTRACTS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF PSYCHIATRY: HORMONAL TREATMENTS AT THE MAUDSLEY HOSPITAL 1923–1938”. The abstract reads:

The use of organ extracts to treat psychiatric disorder in the interwar period is an episode in the history of psychiatry which has largely been forgotten. An analysis of case-notes from The Maudsley Hospital from the period 1923–1938 shows that the prescription of extracts taken from animal testes, ovaries, thyroids, and other organs was widespread within this London Hospital. This article explores the way in which Maudsley doctors justified these treatments by tying together psychological theories of the unconscious with experimental data drawn from laboratory studies of human organs. It explores the logic behind these treatments and examines beliefs about their efficacy. The connection between this historical episode and current research in endocrinology and psychology is explored.

The issue also contains a review of Alison Winter’s latest book, Memory: Fragments of a Modern History.

For access to these articles, and for a complete table of contents, click here.

Que reste-t-il du « transsexualisme » après le rapport de l’IGAS ?


En 2012, l’IGAS (Inspection Générale des Affaires Sociales) rendait disponible son rapport portant sur une « évaluation des conditions de prise en charge médicale et sociale des personnes trans et du transsexualisme »1. Attendu par les décideurs comme par le monde associatif, ce rapport fait suite à l’abandon des réunions ministérielles débutées en 2010 et avortées en 2011, qui avaient pour but d’entendre à la fois les associations d’usagers et les praticiens protocolaires sur la question des transidentités (toujours réduite à la question « transsexuelle »). Un premier rapport, rédigé par la HAS2 (Haute Autorité de Santé) n’était pas parvenu à pacifier la question des modalités de prise en charge des transidentités en France. Le rapport de l’IGAS répond-il aux interrogations autour de la question Trans ?

Le constat des antagonismes.

Le rapport rappelle les enjeux de cette évaluation : l’établissement d’un nouveau PNDS (Plan National de Diagnostic et de Soins). Pour ce faire, le rapport préconise la création d’un « cadre législatif » ainsi que d’une « organisation adaptée » du processus de transition. Toutefois les auteurs du rapport reconnaissent les « difficultés de conciliation » entre les différents acteurs de la question Trans. Il s’agit en réalité d’antagonismes frontaux. Après avoir rappelé le « flou » qui entoure les définitions actuelles, les auteurs soulignent la conviction conjointe des praticiens protocolaires d’assurer un « acte thérapeutique » en même temps qu’une « mutilation ». La question de l’extension du nombre de praticiens, de manière à assurer notamment un meilleur « libre choix » du médecin, semble être exclu par les psychiatres hospitaliers. Sur tous ces points, le rapport n’oublie pas de rappeler les critiques des associations concernant le « real life test », la qualité des opérations, la main mise psychiatrique sur les transitions, la question des délais ou bien encore les « ambigüités » du changement d’ALD (devenu une ALD « hors liste » depuis 2009).

31 propositions.

Au-delà de ces antagonismes, le rapport pointe du doigt les angles morts des précédentes consultations : la question des mineurs, des interactions entre hormones et antirétroviraux, de l’automédication, etc… Au total, le rapport procède à l’écriture de 31 préconisations, dont certaines reprennent très précisément les revendications militantes : réduction des délais, fin du real life test, élargir les conditions de prises en charge ainsi que le nombre de praticiens sur le territoire, constituer des relais d’informations (personnes Trans, sites internet, formations), reconnaissance de l’identité de genre…

Proposer de nouvelles pistes de réflexion

Comme le souligne le rapport lui-même, la question Trans ne se limite pas aux questions médicales. C’est pourquoi la question de la déclassification, de la dépsychiatristion et de la dépathologisation ne se couple pas d’un déremboursement. Cependant il faut envisager une démédicalisation des procédures du changement d’Etat Civil, sur le modèle de ce qui a été fait dans d’autres pays (Espagne et plus récemment Argentine) ou suivant les préconisations européennes. Les auteurs, qui en appellent à de nouveaux rapports insistent néanmoins sur l’importance de ces éléments juridiques et sociaux. Contrairement au rapport de la HAS qui s’était dédouanée de toute responsabilité quant au chapitre intitulé « transsexualisme et société », écrit par Marcela Iacub, le rapport de l’IGAS écrit « ne pas ignorer que de nombreux problèmes, en dehors du champ médical, sont à résoudre »


À la suite de ce rapport, que reste-t-il du « transsexualisme » ? Plus grand-chose. L’optique semble être libéraliser les parcours, tout en maintenant la prise en charge et en modifiant les cadres de la pratique actuelle d’une clinique « transsexuelle » jugée comme maltraitante par les personnes concernées.


Arnaud Alessandrin

Docteur en sociologie, université Bordeaux Segalen

Coresponsable de l’O.D.T. (Observatoire Des Transidentités)

New book: Lou Andreas-Salomé (Isabelle Mons)

 La vie de Lou Andreas-Salomé a suscité et suscite encore bien des interrogations. Belle et brillante, cette intellectuelle de l’Europe de la fin du XIXsiècle a fasciné tour à tour quelques-unes des plus grandes personnalités de son temps à l’instar de Nietzsche, Rilke ou Freud.

« Vous m’avez manqué hier soir à la séance […] et je n’ai cessé de fixer comme fasciné la place vide que l’on vous avait réservée. » Ainsi écrit Freud à Lou Andreas-Salomé, le 10 novembre 1912. Outre le fondateur de la psychanalyse, et avant lui, le philosophe Nietzsche ou le poète Rilke, Lou aura « fasciné» quelques-unes des plus grandes figures de son temps.

Enfant de Russie, Européenne dans l’âme, voyageuse au long cours, Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937) fut tout à la fois muse, écrivain et psychanalyste, vivant de sa plume à une époque où cela ne se faisait pas. Auprès de Nietzsche, rencontré en 1882, dont elle est l’indispensable disciple, Lou prend son envol. Chroniqueuse littéraire, elle fréquente l’avant-garde parisienne, viennoise et munichoise, écrit ses premiers ouvrages. Mariée, elle vit sa vie comme elle l’entend jusqu’au jour où elle croise le chemin de Rainer Maria Rilke, en 1897. S’ouvrent alors trois années de passion absolue entre la femme écrivain déjà célèbre et le poète. Unis dans la tourmente des sentiments, ils partent en Russie, y croisent Tolstoï et Tourgueniev, éprouvent dans leur chair l’idéal paysan de retour à la terre, prisé alors par l’intelligentsia russe. Rilke y découvre une patrie, mais y perd Lou qui le quitte, lasse de son instabilité. La rencontre avec Freud en 1911 est la note finale, superbe, d’une vie consacrée au savoir qui s’achève par l’analyse.
On comprend mieux à la lecture de cette biographie passionnante, neuve et enrichie d’archives inédites le singulier destin de Lou Andreas-Salomé : femme sans être féministe, affranchie des contraintes conjugales et ouverte aux rencontres dans le seul souci de trouver par une quête intime le chemin qui mène à soi. En toute liberté.

Docteur en littérature comparée, enseignante, Isabelle Mons consacre ses recherches à l’écriture féminine et au rapport de la littérature à l’art. Ses travaux déjà remarqués sur Lou-Andreas Salomé lui ont inspiré cette biographie.

Informations copiées depuis le site des éditions Perrin :

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