Birgit Lang

This chapters examines the attempts by psychiatrists and psychoanalysts to popularise their research by choosing to analyse cases—and thus the phenomenon of—creative genius. It shows how psychoanalysis and its proponents co-opted and adapted the medical case study as an extant and authoritative rhetorical form through which to forge a new mode of enquiry. The ways in which psychoanalysts such as Isidor Sadger sought to incorporate and adapt sexological pathographies into psychoanalytic thought, shaped the responses within the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society (WPV) and fuelled a debate that directly contributed to Freud’s development of psychoanalytic case writing. The decisive sophistication of this discourse can be appreciated in Sigmund Freud’s dialogic-psychoanalytic case studies, which show his keen appreciation of the bond that tied middle-class readers to revered creative artists. Yet Freud hesitated (or perhaps thought it fruitless) to challenge this reverence and left the complex quantification of results to his pupil Otto Rank.

in A history of the case study
Open Access (free)
Literary satire and Oskar Panizza’s Psichopatia criminalis (1898)
Birgit Lang

Late nineteenth-century and fin-de-siècle writers first engaged with the case study genre in its psychiatric and psychoanalytic manifestations by means of satire, as recounted in Chapter 3. This chapter contrasts the interpretative powers of modern sexual publics and professional elites with the agency of the writer. It does so through enquiry into Panizza’s satirical and delusional negotiation of the boundaries between the two ‘cultures’ of art and science (pace C. P. Snow). Panizza’s first exposure to the case study genre was in the context of his training as a psychiatrist. More than a decade before Freud’s elaborations on the psychoanalytic case, Panizza made the human case study a central form in his literary oeuvre. Panizza anti-psychiatric dystopian work Psichopatia criminalis, represents the only persiflage of a medical case study compilation in European literature. Yet his engagement with the case study genre remains haunted by his own unruly psyche.

in A history of the case study
Birgit Lang

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.

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

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.

in A history of the case study
Sexology, psychoanalysis, literature

This volume tells the story of the case study genre at a time when it became the genre par excellence for discussing human sexuality across the humanities and the life sciences. A History of the Case Study takes the reader on a transcontinental journey from the imperial world of fin-de-siècle Central Europe and the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the interwar metropolises of Weimar Germany, and to the United States of America in the post-war years.

Foregrounding the figures of case study pioneers, and always alert to the radical implications of their engagement with the genre, the six chapters scrutinise the case writing practices of Sigmund Freud and his predecessor sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing; writers such as Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Oskar Panizza and Alfred Döblin; Weimar intellectuals such as Erich Wulffen, and New York psychoanalyst Viola Bernard. There result important new insights into the continuing legacy of such writers, and into the agency increasingly claimed by the readerships that emerged with the development of modernity—from readers who self-identified as masochists, to conmen and female criminals.

Where previous accounts of the case study have tended to consider the history of the genre from a single disciplinary perspective, this book is structured by the interdisciplinary approach most applicable to the ambivalent context of modernity. It focuses on key moments in the genre’s past, occasions when and where the conventions of the case study were contested as part of a more profound enquiry into the nature of the human subject.

Open Access (free)
Birgit Lang, Joy Damousi and Alison Lewis
in A history of the case study
Open Access (free)
Birgit Lang, Joy Damousi and Alison Lewis
in A history of the case study