Sybil Book Report

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In the 1880s, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “Strange Case of Dr. Hyde,” a novella that provided us with an enduring metaphor for good and evil corporeally bound.

Modern comic books are awash in divided personalities like the Hulk and Two-Face in the Batman series. But few instances of the phenomenon captured Americans’ collective imagination quite like “Sybil,” the study of a woman said to have had not two, not three (like the troubled figure in the 1950s’ “Three Faces of Eve”), but 16 different personalities.

The notion that a person might embody several personalities, each of them distinct, is hardly new.

The ancient Romans had a sense of this and came up with Janus, a two-faced god.

Tens of millions watched a 1976 television movie version.

The story had enough juice left in it for still another television film in 2007.One woman insisted that she had more than 300 identities within her (enough, if you will, to fill the rosters of a dozen major-league baseball teams).Even “Eve,” whose real name is Chris Costner Sizemore, said in the mid-1970s that those famous three faces were surely an undercount. As retold in this latest video documentary from Retro Report, part of a series exploring past news stories and their consequences, the phenomenon burned most intensely for roughly a decade, from the mid-1980s to the mid-'90s. Fw-300 #ya-qn-sort h2 /* Breadcrumb */ #ya-question-breadcrumb #ya-question-breadcrumb i #ya-question-breadcrumb a #bc .ya-q-full-text, .ya-q-text #ya-question-detail h1 html[lang="zh-Hant-TW"] .ya-q-full-text, html[lang="zh-Hant-TW"] .ya-q-text, html[lang="zh-Hant-HK"] .ya-q-full-text, html[lang="zh-Hant-HK"] .ya-q-text html[lang="zh-Hant-TW"] #ya-question-detail h1, html[lang="zh-Hant-HK"] #ya-question-detail h1 /* Trending Now */ /* Center Rail */ #ya-center-rail .profile-banner-default .ya-ba-title #Stencil . Bgc-lgr .tupwrap .comment-text /* Right Rail */ #Stencil . Fw-300 .qstn-title #ya-trending-questions-show-more, #ya-related-questions-show-more #ya-trending-questions-more, #ya-related-questions-more /* DMROS */ .Even with medical conditions that are less controversial and far more familiar to most Americans, questions arise.Consider a developmental disorder like autism or Asperger syndrome.Less than a decade after “Sybil” made its appearance, in 1980, the American Psychiatric Association formally recognized the disorder, and the numbers soared into the thousands.People went on television to tell the likes of Jerry Springer and Leeza Gibbons about their many alters.Either way, the strange case of the woman whose real name was Shirley Ardell Mason made itself felt in psychiatrists’ offices across the country.Pre-"Sybil,” the diagnosis was rare, with only about 100 cases ever having been reported in medical journals.


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