The Cultural History of Exhaustion – Review

This review of the Exhaustion conference appeared on the fantastic Sleep Cultures blog: “On 25 October 2013, the University of Kent hosted a one-day interdisciplinary conference on exhaustion, organized by Anna Katharina Schaffner (Comparative Literature, Kent) and funded by the Wellcome Trust, that brought together scholars from the arts, medicine, sociology, psychology, literary studies and medical humanities. Dr Schaffner opened proceedings with a detailed overview of definitions and models of exhaustion from the 1880s to the present, including neurasthenia, melancholia, depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and burnout. A keynote by Simon Wessely (King’s College, London) showed how a cluster of puzzling symptoms – fatigue, lassitude, demotivation – that came to be known as neurasthenia in the late 1880s and 1890s would, a hundred years later, be variously described as M.E., Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. He also focused on real or perceived causal relations between technology and exhaustion, and discussed the late nineteenth-century perception of neurasthenia as a ‘fashionable disease’, a prestigious complaint associated with the excessive mental stimulations of high-order ‘brain work.’” Continue reading at Sleep Cultures….

One thought on “The Cultural History of Exhaustion – Review

  1. Now this is interesting and worth reading … it is enlightening to see ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome recontextualised through the historic lens as 19th century nueraesthenia … It should become obvious that exhaustion and burnout are part of the obssessive mental disorder characterised by the work ethic, or ‘self enslavement neurosis’ as it should more properly be described … this association to 19th century phenomena makes it clear that redefining disorders in modern language can and does result in a loss of historic context, and a corresponding loss of understanding !
    This is an example of the power of NLP to degrade human wisdom and control the mindset of the populace through medical rhetoric !

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