In 1923 Freud published an essay on the application of psychoanalysis to a case of demonic possession and liberation through exorcism in baroque Austria. For the psychoanalyst working with archival material, it is a matter of rediscovering neurotic ailments under a different rubric. According to Freud, the story of Christoph Haizmann clearly contains a truth which is dear to him, namely, the father conceived as devil. In this polemical text, aimed at Charcot’s heirs, exorcists from the 17th century emerge as unexpected allies of Freud.
Taking the actual political situation in Austria as her starting point, the author provides a psychoanalytical inspired historical reflection. Traditionally, it was religion that structured the inner and outer world of people. It is argued that in Austria this was possible due to the combined powers of Church and Dynasty. For more than five hundred years the Catholic Church and the court of Habsburg cooperated with success in establishing a reciprocal assurance of power. This determined people to a high degree and marked political-institutional as well as psychosocial structures. It is argued that the mechanism of disavowal (Verleugnung) became a dominant mechanism of defence that upheld, far beyond World War I and the Third Reich, the myth of a special Austrian mission, to the price of a narrowed capacity to remember and a reduced perception of reality.
Purity and Danger in Fin-de-Siècle Culture: A Psycho historical Interpretation of Wagner, Stoker and Zola
According to the anthropologist Mary Douglas, the quest for purity is usually accompanied by fears of change, ambiguity and transgression. Translating Douglas’ insights into historical terms, one may assume that sensibilities about what is pure and what is impure will grow stronger during times of intense social and political change, for instance, during the stormy decades around 1900. This period was characterized by a profound identity-crisis and at the same time was marked by a quest for purity. One may think of a deepened concern for hygiene, of the rise of racist movements, but also of an intense longing for cultural reform and regeneration. Notwithstanding their many differences, these phenomena are linked through their concern for the formal distinction between what is pure and what is impure. A study of the work of Wagner, Bram Stoker and Zola gives some insight into the language of purity, serves to show the religious meaning of formal categories of purity and impurity, and makes it clear that the quest for purity in one area is related to the quest for purity in another area.
Bertulf or Galbert? Considerations Regarding a Sample of Historical and Psychoanalytical Criticism of Medieval Dreams
This is a review article on Rudi Künzel’s proposed historical and psychoanalytical critique of medieval dreams. Firstly, the authenticity criteria proposed by Künzel are discussed critically. In particular, doubts are raised about an excessively strict distinction between oral and written culture. Next, a proposal is formulated to use psychoanalytical sensibility in the discourse analysis of other medieval narratives. Finally, some ideas are formulated with reference to an example from Galbert of Bruges’ famous journal on the murder of the Count Charles the Good of Flanders in 1127.
Accounts of the contents of dreams in medieval texts can be the result of a process that occurred in stages: first the dreaming, then the narrating and finally the recording. First, someone dreams a dream. He remembers it and tells it to himself as it were; then he tells someone else what he dreamt. The other person writes it down. Occasionally other oral links occur in this chain between the dreamer and the transcriber of the dream. Each stage of this process contains elements that can affect whether the dream is preserved or not and can also have a distorting effect on the original contents of the dream. The mechanisms involved in this process are the subject of this study.
Medieval texts also frequently contain passages that appear to describe dreams but do not really do so; rather they are pure literary creations or clichés. In this article a number of criteria for analyzing texts containing dreams are developed using insights and techniques from historical philology, cultural anthropology and psychoanalysis.
The standpoint I am defending is that although ideas about dreams change in the course of time and from culture to culture, the mental activity of dreaming is part of man’s biological baggage and is thus a historical constant.