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.

Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus im Pelz (1870)
Birgit Lang

study eased this transposition of ideas from the literary to the sexological realm for Krafft-Ebing’s patients – and for a newly emerging sexual public that reinterpreted the original meaning of Sacher-Masoch’s Venus im Pelz (Venus in Furs). In current scholarship, the naming of masochism after Sacher-­Masoch denotes the clash between the clinic and the literary world in an iconic manner. The contentious naming has a history considered at once ­simplistic and presumptuous; it is commonly represented as an oversimplification of the intricate relationship between Sacher

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
Open Access (free)
Birgit Lang, Joy Damousi and Alison Lewis

task of mapping their agency and interventions. ‘Brokers of case knowledge’, however, can be shown to include newly emerging sexual publics, as well as members of professional elites (psychiatrists, psycho­analysts and jurists) and creative writers. These practitioners took up case studies as a representational practice so as to demonstrate or classify a new phenomenon or pathology; to register a deviation from existing knowledge; to raise questions concerning the meaning of a given example (and by implication its explanatory framework); and to disseminate specialist

in A history of the case study