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PRINT September 2003

books

Georges Didi-Huberman

Two questions had been put to me as I set about reading Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpêtrière in translation. (It was published in French twenty-one years ago.) Why did it take so long for Georges Didi-Huberman’s book to appear in English? And why had it not been more important to the relatively new discipline of the history of photography in its Anglo-American incarnation? (Or, more positively, what had its importance been?) Rather than answer those “why” questions directly, I thought I would pursue briefly the theme of translation and then look more at length at Invention of Hysteria as a book about photography as much as hysteria, such that its “photographic iconography” portion would be just as important as the headlined part of the title; such that everything said about hysteria and its invention could be translated into a statement about

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