Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Traveller's psychological disturbance

"Stendhal syndrome" has become a commonly used expression to refer to a traveller's psychological disturbance triggered by a work of art.
The term derives from the title of a 1989 book by the Florentine psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Graziella Magherini.
During her many years as chief psychiatrist of the Mental Health Service at Florence's Santa Maria Nuova Hospital, professor Magherini had occasion to observe foreign tourists in the grip of psychiatric crises which were typical of sudden onset, brief and usually benign.
Study of these episodes revealed their close relationship with travel to cities of great art. Clinical probing of individual cases enabled Magherini to establish that the impact of artistic masterpieces can touch and bring to the surface repressed e motional experiences.
In this way, a voyage can ultimately lead to self-knowledge.
Magherini applied Stendhal's name to the cluster of symptoms she observed and studied, because in 1817 the French writer described a severe malaise he suffered white visiting and viewing the marvels of the church of Santa Croce in Florence.


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