Marie Esquiron: ‘Ma triste et injuste séquestration’

Susannah Wilson

in Voices from the Asylum

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199579358
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595226 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monographs

Marie Esquiron: ‘Ma triste et injuste séquestration’

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This chapter considers a memoir written in 1893 by the feminist activist Marie Esquiron, in protest at her incarceration in a private psychiatric clinic. Using by means of comparison the case of Freud's hysterical patient Dora, this chapter rejects the suggestion by Cixous that the protest of the female hysteric is a silent one, and argues that her complaint is discursive and rhetorical rather than irrational. First, an analysis of Esquiron's claim ‘je me connais moi‐même’ looks at the question of the patient's textual projection of the impression of insight into her own mental state, through the coming together of body and mind: a dialectic and a bodily protest. This examines the way in which Esquiron's writing can be read as that of a ‘reasoning hysteric’, through assumption of a ‘masculine’ stance: exploiting arguments that appear conscious, rational, and judicious and adopting an adversarial, proactive stance. The second section argues that there is much that is, by contrast, irrational in psychiatric discourse, revealing the institutional ‘hysteria’ of the medical profession. The final section addresses the idea of the interminable narrative: two opposing accounts produced from the same source ‘facts’ result in a sense of narrative stasis and inertia. The end of Esquiron's text, ‘Ma conclusion’, represents a false closure to a piece of writing that lacks a sense of finality or resolution.

Keywords: Esquiron; hysteria; personality disorder; Cixous; psychiatric discourse; feminism; alcoholism; protest; activism; Freud's ‘Dora’

Chapter.  15798 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)

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