SHE IS HYSTERICAL. Hysteria, Politics, and Performance Strategies

deadline for submissions: 
July 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Johanna Braun / UCLA Department of French and Francophone Studies; UCLA Center for European and Russian Studies; UCLA Center for Performance Studies.
contact email: 

CFP: She is Hysterical (Conference and Publication; University of California, Los Angeles)

Deadline for submissions: July 30, 2018 / Conference: November 1. 2018, UCLA Royce Hall, Room 306 / Publication: Spring 2019


Hysteria, Politics, and Performance Strategies

In Europe, especially in Vienna and Paris, around 1900, the hysterical girl was a well-studied object in arts and sciences; she re-appeared, a hundred years later, in countless manifestations in US mainstream horror films.[1] In addition, key words describing women in protest as “hysterical”, “nasty”, “possessed”, or “monstrous” dominate contemporary public discourse. The female hysteric in these current narratives references strikingly established representations of the hysteric as (public) performer that extend well beyond the European studies of the nineteenth century. For example, although the medical term hysteria was struck from the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1994, it simultaneously reappeared as Histrionic Personality Disorder (Latin: histrio, actor/actress).This rebranding further underlines the point of this investigation: the female hysteric is diagnosed as performer. Given this reintroduction, and the re-appearance of the hysteric in current discourses, one may assume that the self-reflective media figure of the female hysteric will continue to gain ground in its cultural impact. The aim of this project is to show the ways in which a historical European phenomenon enjoys an active legacy in the United States one hundred years later and, in turn, resonates around the world.

Although the history and evolution of the representation of hysteria have been extensively researched, the study of how these discourses have been transferred to twenty-first-century US popular culture remains uncharted territory. This conference’s main focus is the way in which the hysteric is involved in and performs on the pressing intersection of hysteria, cultural, (horror) film and performance studies.

Furthermore, as a result of performance studies being a paradigm-driven field, this conference (and the subsequent publication) will be divided into two sections: In the beginning, we will follow the hysteric’s performance as object of inquiry, which will enable us to put the current phenomenon in its (historical) context. Thereafter, we will expand the scope and focus on performance studies as a primary analytical concept, which will enable us to uncover the potentiality of agency in the hysteric’s performance. We welcome scholarship and practice-based research in relation to hysteria and performance from all disciplines and backgrounds. As this event is designed to bring together a diverse group of scholars and artists, we value traditional paper submissions as well as encourage experimental forms of presentations, such as (new) media-, video-, performance and performance-lecture.


 Relevant paper topics might consider, but are not limited to

  • Performance theory and hysteria
  • European medical studies on hysteria and the use of new technology
  • Hysteria in Theater, Film, Television, Streaming Media, Social Media, etc.
  • Hysteria and contemporary (horror) film
  • Film as hysterical medium
  • Film and the attempt to record/reproduce the hysteric’s performance
  • The pathology of women’s* body / women* and rage
  • Hysteria as (feminist) protest
  • The politics of being (labeled) hysteric
  • Queer perspectives on hysteria
  • Questions of Gender, Class and Race and hysteria
  • Mass Hysteria and Technology


Proposals (500-words): July 30, 2018      
Final Papers Due: September 16, 2018
Conference: November 1, 2018
Submission of Final Revised Papers for Publication: December 10, 2018.
Publication: Spring, 2019


Please submit a 500-word proposal and a 200-word biography to Johanna Braun ( by July 30, 2018.

This conference is part of Johanna Braun’s research project “The Hysteric as Conceptual Operator”, which is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): [J 4164-G24] and organized in cooperation with Sean Metzger (Associate Professor of Performance Studies at UCLA and Director of Performance Studies international), the UCLA Department of French and Francophone Studies; UCLA Center for European and Russian Studies and UCLA Center for Performance Studies.



[1] such as An American Haunting (Lionsgate, 2005), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Sony, 2005), the Paranormal Activity series (Paramount, since 2007), The Last Exorcism I and II (Lionsgate, 2011/2013), The Devil Inside (Paramount, 2012), The Possession (Lionsgate, 2012), The Conjuring I and II (Warner Bros., 2013/2016), Deliver Us From Evil (Sony, 2014), The Quiet Ones (Lionsgate, 2014), Jessabelle (Liongate, 2014), Insidious: Chapter 3 (Sony, 2015), Insidious: The Last Key (Universal, 2018), Ouija I and II: Origin of Evil (Universal, 2014/2016).