Date of Award

8-15-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Abstract

This paper follows the discourse of "nervous diseases" in America as it was articulated and contested by various lay, religious, and medical healers from the late nineteenth-century through the First World War. Specifically, it inquires into how their various diagnoses, treatments, and regimens either shaped or reinforced the structure of the social order and the individual's designated role within it. On the one hand, while dissenting interpretations and healing modalities challenged this discourse, their underlying ideological agreement with it, in crucial respects, accounts for why they failed to alter or decenter it. On the other hand, a majority of neurologists, psychiatrists, psychopathologists, psychotherapists, and social workers, along with a number of lay healers, theorists, and journalists, attenuated, and ultimately suppressed, the subversive implications of alternative theories and healing proposals. In both these ways, a dominant set of interpretations and treatments cohered which, by the second decade of the twentieth century, stabilized the prevailing order and translated into new structures of control.

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