Cataleptics played a curious role in eighteenth-century French culture: although they were associated with polemical phenomena like the Jansenist convulsionaries--a subject of theological, moralist, and political debate from the beginning of the century to the 1760s--they were also singled out as a distinct and authentic patient group by physicians.
Arnulphe dAumont described ecstatics as patients suffering from a "soporific," melancholic disease that differed from catalepsy only in degree: ecstatics became physically immobilized, but lacked the extraordinary flexibility seen in cataleptics; and they displayed the ability (absent in cataleptics) to recall, after their disease attack, the idea on which their minds had been fixed prior to the attack.
Gender was unquestionably a factor in the reports on medical cataleptics and ecstatics which were published in the vernacular (and thus directed at the general public as well as specialists).
He did not prescribe any systematic therapeutic program for treating the disease, but he did express reservations about the harsh "cures" which some doctors administered to cataleptics, like emetics, purgatives, bleedings, cauterization, the application of ammonia salts to the eyes, needle pricks, electrical jolts, and so on.
The Vesoul story captures several key aspects of the symptoms that were commonly attributed to cataleptics in eighteenth-century accounts.
One factor in the linking of catalepsy with female hysteria was skepticism over the claims made by magnetizers like the Lyon doctor Henri-Desire Petetin, author of Memoire sur la decouverte des phenomenes que presentent la catalepsie et le somnabulisme (1787), which recounted cases of female cataleptics whose symptoms included heightened intelligence and the ability to see and even smell through their internal organs.