Erich Wulffen and the case of the criminal
in A history of the case study

State Prosecutor and legal reformer Erich Wulffen used the case study genre for legal and largely didactic purposes. Chapter 4 illustrates the adoption of the conventions of sexological case writing by the legal fraternity in twentieth-century Central Europe, and ways in which Wulffen brought the case study genre from the hidden world of the court to the wider public. In doing this, Wulffen carved a niche for himself as an expert in legal reform and sexology in Wilhelmine and Weimar Germany. He embraced different kinds of case modalities over the course of his professional career, targeting professional, middle-class audiences and the wider reading public during his thirty years in the role of prosecutor. The changing success of Wulffen’s publications highlights the intensifying crisis of the expert case study as a modality able to ‘speak the truth’ about modern sexuality and deviance. While Wulffen’s expert case studies about con men and other criminals were highly successful during the Wilhelmine era, the same approach and model for case writing met a more critical audience after 1918. Wulffen embraced the challenge of a new democratic environment by writing implicitly didactical popular crime novels. However, eventually his criminal subjects literally ‘wrote back’ after their sensationalised trials, using case studies in an attempt to narrate their own versions of events. The accounts of these criminals-turned-writers such as convicted paedophile Edith Cadivec. Thus the popularisation of sensationalist case studies, written, for instance, by perpetrators of crime, was an important factor in the case study genre’s loss of respectability.

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A history of the case study

Sexology, psychoanalysis, literature

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