Of Horses, Planks, and Window Sleepers: Stage Hypnotism Meets Reform, 1836–1920 [Book Review]

Journal of Medical Humanities 22 (3):223-245 (2001)
This paper is a historical study of stage hypnotism from the early nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries. The hypnotists' stage performances over this period reveal cultural tensions related to modernization. Public responses to these shows also indicate the shifting dynamics of reform. When mesmerists first toured the U.S. in the early nineteenth century, the hypnotic trance confirmed popular belief in the ultimate perfectibility of the individual and society. By the late nineteenth century, however, hypnotic shows seemed more a model for human enslavement than liberation. Medical experts also began to express concern at the possible health damage hypnotism might inflict. Despite stage hypnotists' efforts to defend their art, hypnotism became increasingly marginalized as the growth of the middle class and of mass culture dictated an increasingly sanitized popular culture
Keywords hypnosis-history  hypnotists  stage hypnotists  vaudeville
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DOI 10.1023/A:1016616217818
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