American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History 2019-06-15T22:15:41+00:00
American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History

In 1903, everybody who was anybody was neurasthenic . . .

Hysteria, insomnia, hypochondria, asthma, skin rashes, hay fever, premature baldness, inebriety, nervous exhaustion, brain-collapse—all were symptoms of neurasthenia, the bizarre psychophysiological illness that plagued America's intellectual and economic elite around the turn of the century.

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About the Book

American Nervousness, 1903 explores the widespread occurrence of neurasthenia or “the blues” among American writers, artists, and intellectuals in 1903.

A pioneering work of cultural studies, this book looks at the work of many of the authors diagnosed with the disease, like Henry James, whose Ambassadors was published in 1903, as was W.E.B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk, Jack London’s Call of the Wild, and books by Theodore Dreiser, Mary Wilkins Freeman, John Muir, Edith Wharton, Kate Chopin, William Dean Howells, Frank Norris, and many others.

This was the beginning of modernity, and 1903 was the year in which the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, the year of the first baseball World Series, the year the Curies shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering radioactivity, the year Albert Einstein published his first professional paper, the year the Panama Cana was finished and the New York subway system started, and the year the first feature film, “The Great Train Robbery,” was made.

American Nervousness, 1903 weaves all these strands together in an experiment in “anecdotal history.”

Details
Series: Nonfiction
Genres: American Studies, Cultural History, History of Medicine, Psychology
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication Year: 1993
Format: Hardcover
Length: 344 pages
ASIN: 0801425816
ISBN: 9780801499012
Endorsements
"American Nervousness is a piece of energetic research, a compilation of interesting episodes and cases."
"Tom Lutz has written a thoughtful and theoretically sophisticated book about the discourse concerning neurasthenia, a psychological disorder that apparently afflicted large numbers of bourgeois and elite people in turn-of-the-century America. It was a discourse, he argues, that influenced the writings of diverse political, literary and academic personages. At once intellectual history, cultural history and social history, this is an exemplary work in the genre of scholarship called the "new historicism" in literary studies or the "new cultural history" in history."
"Ambitious synchronic history of the relationship between neurasthenia in the medical discourse, realism in American literature, and Progressivism in American politics."
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