New Publication: Performing Neurology (Palgrave Macmillan, Sept 2016), by Jonathan W. Marshall

Type of post: Association news item
Posted By: Glen McGillivray
Status: Current
Date Posted: Thu, 8 Sep 2016

Performing Neurology provides an interdisciplinary analysis of the work of Jean-Martin Charcot, a founding figure in the history of neurology as a discipline (and with whom Freud studied). The author argues that Charcot’s diagnostic model (how disease is recognized and described) and his pedagogic framework (how one teaches the act of neurological diagnosis) should be seen as in theatrical terms. These theatrical concepts and methods were both part of his genius, as well as his Achilles heel, Charcot often being unfavorably compared to directors such as Wagner. In seeing the constitution of the living, moving body in terms of performance, Charcot created a situation whereby deceptive acting as distinct from real pathology, scientific accuracy versus creative falsehood, and indeed between health and unhealth, became confused. Charcot’s language and practice meant that the physician became a medical subject in his or her own display, transforming medicine into a potentially destabilizing, even grand guignolesque, discourse.

Jonathan W. Marshall is an interdisciplinary scholar who has published on the relationship between neurology and the arts, as well as photomedia, sound art, butoh dance, Australian painting and choreography, and other topics. Marshall is a freelance critic and reviewer of contemporary arts. In 2016, he moved from the University of Otago in New Zealand, to a position at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University.

“This work makes an important contribution to our understanding of the place of the Salpêtrière in the larger cultural setting of theatrical performance and dramaturgy and to Charcot’s own role in both borrowing from this world and contributing to it. Marshall demonstrates how an iconography of art, photographs and performance undermined the authority of the clinicians who used it by breaking down old epistemic boundaries and creating new aesthetic alliances, which in turn invited criticism from journalists, artists, and culture critics whose own domains were now more related to clinical method.”

Professor Robert Nye, Oregon State University

“From the Grand Guignol to recent studies of neuro-aesthetics, this book provides a compelling analysis of Charcot’s influence upon our corporeal understandings of performance, hysteria and theatricality. Importantly, it also reveals how visualization and dramaturgical devices in medicine and art have sought to persuade audiences of their symbolic power.”

Professor Rachel Fensham, University of Melbourne

“Jonathan Marshall’s work offers significant new insight into hysteria through his innovative analysis of Jean-Martin Charcot. He shifts the perspective on Charcot from sterile debates about the adequacy of Charcot’s aetiologies of hysteria to analyses of his presentation of hysteria in theatrical terms. Charcot directed performances, and both patients and audience members were incorporated in the performance. Marshall transforms our approach to Charcot.”

Professor Charles Sowerwine, University of Melbourne