Sergeant Jones’s Sleeping-Bag

Michael Ignatieff

  • Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture by Elaine Showalter
    Picador, 244 pp, £16.99, June 1997, ISBN 0 330 34670 9

It adds greatly to the glamour of this book that its author was threatened for having written it. Her offence was to argue that many of the passing media events of our culture – chronic fatigue syndrome, Gulf War syndrome, satanic ritual abuse allegations, alien abduction fantasies – are forms of mass hysteria. This so enraged American sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome that they threatened to kill her. The fact that people so tired they can barely get out of bed could muster the strength to do this would be comic if it weren’t so alarming.

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