Diary

Elaine Showalter

‘Where are your bodyguards?’ asked my London landlord, peering hopefully over my shoulder as I picked up the keys. It was an early warning of how great a disappointment I would be to my British friends. UK newspaper reports of American reactions to my book Hystories, published in March last year, had mentioned threats of assassination, and had described me as requiring constant protection. In the book, I argue that several contemporary phenomena – chronic fatigue syndrome, Gulf War syndrome, recovered memory, multiple personality disorder, satanic ritual abuse and alien abduction – are hysterical epidemics, real disorders but caused by psychological conflicts rather than viruses, nerve gas, devil worshippers or extra-terrestrials. The book made a lot of people furious, but was hardly New Jersey’s Salman Rushdie.

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