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Silencing the Body: Hypnosis, Music, and Pain in the 19th Century

This event will take place in the Second Floor Common Room of Columbia University's Heyman Center. Céline Frigau Manning, associate professor at the Institut Universitaire de France, will be speaking and Joelle M. Abi-Rached, lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University, will be responding.

In many 19th century narratives, hypnosis was the treatment of last resort in order to tackle persistent pain and attain what René Leriche would subsequently call the “silence of the organs.” Faced with such an adversary, hypnosis and music became part of a rhetoric of spectacle, with public displays of insensibility to pain culminating in musical sequences, or pain itself being used with music to create performative trance states. Though hypnosis has been the subject of a vast body of clinical investigation and historical scholarship, the history of its relationship to music remains unwritten. This talk will explore various narratives of this interaction in an attempt to understand how experiments involving music and hypnosis influenced both doctors’ and patients’ moral understanding of bodies in pain.