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Project Title: Madness and Hysteria: Social Control in Early Modern Spain
Mentor: Glenda Nieto-Cuebas
This presentation will critically examine “hysteria” as an example of the influence of a male-dominant perspective on women in early modern Spain, particularly from the mid-1400s to the late 1500s. Analyzing the exemplary case of Juana I of Castilla, it will discuss possible contributing factors that may have led a woman to exhibit symptoms of hysteria as a mental disorder, as well as the social ramifications of hysteria as a means of controlling women. Juana I was the daughter of the one of the most influential queens of Spain, Isabel I la Catolica, and the mother of Carlos V the Holy Roman Emperor. I propose that beyond an issue of misunderstanding female physiology and health, “hysteria” also served as a means for social control. In this way, the concept of “hysteria” allowed men to decide what behaviors were socially acceptable, as well as facilitate manipulation of power and authority. Although Juana I was situated in a social status of immense authority and influence, she was consistently subjugated to have no real control over her life for the majority of its duration.