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Vampires, Viruses and Verbalisation: Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a genealogical window into fin-de-siècle science

This paper analyses Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula as a literary document which reflects important scientific and technological developments of the fin-the-siècle era, ranging from blood transfusion and virology via psychotherapy and psychoanalysis up to brain research and communication technology. These developments not only herald a new style of scientific thinking, but also foreshadow a number of developments still relevant for contemporary culture. In other words, I read Dracula as a window into biomedical and bio-political challenges surfacing in the 1890s, but evolving into major research areas. Rather than seeing science and literature as separate cultures, moreover, Dracula as a case study reveals how techno-scientific and literary developments mutually challenge and mirror one another, so that we may use Stoker’s novel to deepen our understanding of contemporary science-related developments and vice versa. Dracula provides a window into fin-de-siècle research practices, collating various disciplines (haematology, virology, psychotherapy, neurology) into a genealogic Gesamtbild. Thus, Stoker’s novel elucidates the techno-scientific and socio-cultural constellation into which psychoanalysis was born. The common epistemic profile of this maieutic backdrop, I will argue, is that both psychoanalysis and Dracula reflect a triumph of the symbolic over the imaginary as a techno-scientific strategy for coming to terms with the threatening real.

“The Readiness is All” or How Shakespeare Read Freud

Referring to Freud’s correspondence with Wilhelm Fließ, it is argued that Freud did not so much “apply” clinical insight concerning his own archaic and incestuous desires onto literature, i.e., Hamlet (Shakespeare) and Oedipus Rex (Sophocles). On the contrary, it was only after he had assimilated the significance of Hamlet’s words, “The readiness is all”, that he arrived at his interpretation of Hamlet’s behaviour and the effects of both tragedies on the spectator. In this sense, it was Shakespeare who “read” and interpreted Freud, rather than the other way round. This important episode in the history of psychoanalysis also illustrates how literature can function as Other, i.e., in the position of the psychoanalyst.

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Mishima’s “L’école de la chair”: The Educational Drive and Other Aspects of Perversion

In this paper the author revisits Mishima’s L’école de la chair (1993) through an explorative questioning of the Japanese writer with respect to the structure of perversion. Rather than starting from an a priori formulated theory on perversion, Mishima’s work is read in an open way that results in a series of themes. In addition to the opposites characteristic of Mishima’s oeuvre, the following themes emerge: the educational drive; the psychological insight; the knowledge and the use of this knowledge in eroticism and love; homosexual eroticism; the contract; the jouissance; contempt and humiliation; and fantasy. L’ecole de la chair teaches us about perversion, especially with respect to the educational drive, that is when the latter serves other than strictly educational aims, such as humiliation. Finally, the author considers some aspects of C. Millot’s Gide, Genet, Mishima, Intelligence de la perversion (1996).