The shifting case of masochism
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus im Pelz (1870)
in A history of the case study

This chapter investigates the agency of the sexual public, and the indirect power wielded by these readers and patients of sexology in defending the truth of sexological case writings. Through the works and the figure of Sacher-Masoch, the chapter considers how in the late nineteenth century medical case studies functioned as sites of reinterpretation by doctors, and by sexological patients and other members of an emerging sexual public. Sacher-Masoch’s literary case study, his Darwinist novella Venus im Pelz (Venus in Furs), constitutes the first fictional account of what became known as masochism. The chapter argues that masochist readers were the first to reinterpret Sacher-Masoch’s literary investigations into Darwinism as a roman-à-clef. In doing so, some of them contributed greatly to the recategorisation of Sacher-Masoch as a masochist—through patient statements and biography, both of which informed sexological discourse.

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A history of the case study

Sexology, psychoanalysis, literature

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