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From Paralysis to Fatigue


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Shorter (history, Univ. of Toronto), whose most recent books include Bedside Manners ( LJ 3/1/86) and Women's Bodies (Transaction Pubs., 1990), here catalogs the aches and pains of countless legions from the 18th century to the present. His hypothesis is that ``historical eras shape their own symptoms'' of illness and that ``these various paradigms greatly influenced the way patients presented psychosomatic illness to their doctors.'' It's a run-on litany of vapors, hysteria, weakness, exhaustion, fatigue, loss of ambition, low vitality, weak spells, neurasthenia, and sometimes just your ``garden-variety somatizer such as would be found in any medical practice.'' The question of to what extent the times and culture influence the socially correct expression of physical and mental ills is not without interest to several scholarly fields, but this reader was plum tuckered out by the end.-- James Swanton, Albert Einstein Coll. of Medicine, New York

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