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Psychic Empire: Literary Modernism and the Clinical State

Psychic Empire: Literary Modernism and the Clinical State

Psychic Empire: Literary Modernism and the Clinical State

By Cate I. Reilly

Psychic Empire presents a brilliant account of the porous boundaries between European modernist literature and psychiatric and psychoanalytic theories of the mind. Cate I. Reilly reads literature as scientific commentary and, conversely, scientific texts as fiction. This book provides historical depth to discussions on the place of literature today in the face of new technologies of the mind.—Veronika Fuechtner, author of Berlin Psychoanalytic: Psychoanalysis and Culture in Weimar Republic

In nineteenth-century imperial Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, new scientific fields like psychophysics, empirical psychology, clinical psychiatry, and neuroanatomy transformed the understanding of mental life in ways long seen as influencing modernism. Turning to the history of psychiatric classification for mental illnesses, Cate I. Reilly argues that modernist texts can be understood as critically responding to objective scientific models of the psyche, not simply illustrating their findings. Modernist works written in industrializing Central and Eastern Europe historicize the representation of consciousness as a quantifiable phenomenon within techno-scientific modernity.

Looking beyond modernism’s well-studied relationship to psychoanalysis, this book tells the story of the non-Freudian vocabulary for mental illnesses that forms the precursor to today’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Developed by the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin in the 1890s, this psychiatric taxonomy grew from the claim that invisible mental illnesses were analogous to physical phenomena in the natural world. Reilly explores how figures such as Georg Büchner, Ernst Toller, Daniel Paul Schreber, Nikolai Evreinov, Vsevolod Ivanov, and Santiago Ramón y Cajal understood the legal and political consequences of representing mental life in physical terms. Working across literary studies, the history of science, psychoanalytic criticism, critical theory, and political philosophy, Psychic Empire is an original account of modernism that shows the link between nineteenth-century scientific research on the mental health of national populations and twenty-first-century globalized, neuroscientific accounts of psychopathology and sanity.

344 pages
Columbia University Press, 2024
6 x 9 inches
ISBN 9780231214650
Theory, Psychology

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