College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Women & Gender Studies


feminism, hysteria, disability studies, queer theory, supernatural


Using discourse analysis, this paper investigates the unresolved nature of a recently documented case of “conversion disorder” or “mass psychogenic illness” experienced by a group of teenage girls in Le Roy, New York. I argue we can see this contemporary embodiment of hysteria as a form of queer communicative resistance, existing in a discursive space called the hysterical supernatural. This new terminology – an alternative to the one-dimensionality of conventional medical models – looks toward the crucial intersection of queer theory, antiracist feminisms, disability studies, and trauma studies. The construction of hysteria becomes an important framework for investigating nuances of patriarchal oppression within intersections of gender, race, sexuality, disability, age, class, communication, agency, and (self)representation in this case. I interrogate the spirit, soul, and emotional consciousness of hysterical bodies in opposition to Western medical models that assess and diagnose deviant bodies. Language and embodiment within the hysterical supernatural demonstrate how non-normative behaviors become a gendered spectacle and require a re-imagining of a different kind of a hysteria altogether – one that creates a space for its own expression and communication that resists the possibility of being named. New media and contemporary technologies also play an important role, as their representations of these girls’ bodies make the language of hysteria hyper-visible and vulnerable to a particular kind of surveillance. The hysterical supernatural in Le Roy is a linguistic and artistic disruption that transcends the pathologization of hysterical bodies. As a recent example of gendered hysteria, the Le Roy case encourages a sense of urgency in the re-creation of a narrative with strong social, gendered, and political implications. The terminology of the hysterical supernatural provides an alternative lens to queer hysteria as a complex and variable diagnosis.