Men of Disordered Passions in the Belle Époque of Neurasthenia

Published: Sep 15, 2022
Dimitra Vassiliadou

Drawing on the surviving case notes of the neurologist-psychiatrist Simonidis
Vlavianos from the first five years of his private practice (1903–1907), this article charts
how a national variation of neurasthenia crystallised in early twentieth-century Greece.
As documented by Vlavianos’ case records – texts that combine medical discourse with
first-person accounts of illness – neurasthenia acquired masculine, albeit cross-class
characteristics, and placed a strong emphasis on pathological sexual practices and disordered
emotionality. It argues that the key to understanding the sexualisation of the ailment lies
in the quest of neurologist-psychiatrists to be recognised as important public actors at a
time of rapid transformation, both in Greek society and in their own profession. One of the
ways to achieve this goal was to face and treat the challenges, frustrations and fears that the
increasing visibility of sexuality imposed on public institutions, authorities and individuals.

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