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Journeys into Madness

Journeys into Madness: Mapping Mental Illness in the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Gemma Blackshaw
Sabine Wieber
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 222
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  • Book Info
    Journeys into Madness
    Book Description:

    At the turn of the century, Sigmund Freud's investigation of the mind represented a particular journey into mental illness, but it was not the only exploration of this 'territory' in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Sanatoriums were the new tourism destinations, psychiatrists were collecting art works produced by patients and writers were developing innovative literary techniques to convey a character's interior life. This collection of essays uses the framework of journeys in order to highlight the diverse artistic, cultural and medical responses to a peculiarly Viennese anxiety about the madness of modern times. The travellers of these journeys vary from patients to doctors, artists to writers, architects to composers and royalty to tourists; in engaging with their histories, the contributors reveal the different ways in which madness was experienced and represented in 'Vienna 1900'.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-459-1
    Subjects: History, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)
    Gemma Blackshaw and Sabine Wieber

    On 14 October 1909, the artist Oskar Kokoschka travelled in a southeasterly direction from Vienna to what is now the city’s fourteenth district of Penzing, a densely wooded area that climbs up towards the eastern reaches of the Austrian Alps. On the request of his patron, the architect Adolf Loos, Kokoschka was to undertake a portrait commission at Vienna’s newly opened psychiatric asylum, the Lower Austrian Provincial Institution for the Care and Cure of the Mentally Ill and for Nervous Disorders ‘am Steinhof’, which opened in 1907 (Figure 0.1). The circumstances of this journey were interesting enough for Kokoschka to...

  5. Chapter 1 The Mad Objects of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Journeys, Contexts and Dislocations in the Exhibition ‘Madness and Modernity’
    (pp. 10-26)
    Leslie Topp

    Between 2004 and 2008, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) of Great Britain funded a collaborative research project on the links between mental illness, psychiatry and the visual arts in Vienna and the Habsburg Empire between 1890 and 1914, one of the results of which was the 2009–10 exhibition ‘Madness and Modernity’. There is an impulse towards completeness in sustained collaborative interdisciplinary research such as that undertaken for the AHRC project. By devoting the close, ongoing attention of several dedicated individuals to a particular topic (madness as a cultural artefact) in a defined location and time period (Vienna...

  6. Chapter 2 Solving Riddles: Freud, Vienna and the Historiography of Madness
    (pp. 27-42)
    Steven Beller

    Sigmund Freud tried to solve two riddles. At the beginning of the long journey of exploration in the realm of mental illness that was his psychoanalytic career, Freud tried to answer the riddle of Man, the riddle that Oedipus answered to overcome the Sphinx. At the end of that distinguished but always controversial journey, Freud tried to answer another, pressing riddle, of the Man Moses: why had the Jewish people survived all these centuries, and why (from Moses to Freud) were they so hated? Freud’s answer to the first riddle, the Oedipus complex, has been hugely influential in our modern...

  7. Chapter 3 Symphonies and Psychosis in Mahler’s Vienna
    (pp. 43-57)
    Gavin Plumley

    Thomas Mann, whose work has become inextricably linked with that of Gustav Mahler, suggests a deeply historicist conclusion to his 1947 novelDoctor Faustus.² Culture reflects time, and the resulting ‘enlivened paper’ has ‘broken’ the ‘old man’. An exchange of energies has occurred, for the betterment of culture, but to the detriment of the narrator’s well-being. Published after the Nazi era, Mann’s text is a virtuosic distillation of the neurotic era that produced both Mahler and Sigmund Freud, this essay’s protagonists. Although criticised by Arnold Schoenberg for replicating and falsifying his life in fiction, Adrian Leverkühn, Mann’s Faustian composer, is...

  8. Chapter 4 Creating an Appropriate Social Milieu: Journeys to Health at a Sanatorium for Nervous Disorders
    (pp. 58-71)
    Nicola Imrie

    Mention the word ‘sanatorium’ to anyone familiar with German literature, and chances are the response will beDer ZauberbergorMagic Mountain.Thomas Mann’s 1924 novel about Hans Castorp, his cousin and other patients at a tuberculosis sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, is well known. In Mann’s 1903 short story ‘Tristan’, a distinctive sanatorium building is described:

    Here is Einfried, the sanatorium! White and rectilinear, it is situated with its main building and elongated wing amid extensive gardens with delightful grottoes, pergolas and small pavilions made from bark. Behind its slate roofs the mountains, massive, with gentle crags and blanketed with...

  9. Chapter 5 Travel to the Spas: The Growth of Health Tourism in Central Europe, 1850–1914
    (pp. 72-89)
    Jill Steward

    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the lives of extraordinary numbers of individuals in Central Europe were touched by the new culture of movement, which made their immediate worlds appear smaller and extended their mental horizons. Many saw this as one of the more positive features of modernity, but others regarded the frenetic atmosphere ofHetzen und Jagen(hurry and haste) created by the speeding up of travel and communications as a cause for concern.¹ These fears were supported by the sensational publicity accorded to railway accidents and the traumatic effects of ‘railway spine’, and it was certainly...

  10. Chapter 6 Vienna’s Most Fashionable Neurasthenic: Empress Sisi and the Cult of Size Zero
    (pp. 90-108)
    Sabine Wieber

    In the above-quoted essay, Felix Salten – probably best known as the author ofBambi(1923) – commemorated the Austrian empress Elisabeth (1837–1898) as an isolated individual who spent the final decades of her life restlessly travelling through the Mediterranean. Salten used this text to project Elisabeth as an ethereal, misunderstood and ultimately tragic figure: ‘The Empress … has long escaped our grasp, she was the embodiment of someone who carried her way and well above the existence of others’.² Salten’s rhetoric formed part of a wider posthumous idealisation of the Empress first set into motion by her assassination in 1898...

  11. Chapter 7 Peter Altenberg: Authoring Madness in Vienna circa 1900
    (pp. 109-129)
    Gemma Blackshaw

    On 23 December 1912, the architect Adolf Loos and the English performer Bessie Bruce wrote to their good friend, Peter Altenberg, wishing him a ‘Merry Christmas’ from the Grand Hotel Couttet et du Parc in Chamonix where they were taking the Mont Blanc air for Bruce’s consumption. In a teasing close to their chatty letter, she writes: ‘What is one to do with such an old fool but just send him to Steinhof? That’s what comes of too much Prodomos [sic] – but go!’¹ Bruce exclaims that Altenberg’s fanatical devotion to those early twentieth-century tenets of good mental health – diet, hygiene...

  12. Chapter 8 ‘Hell Is Not Interesting, It Is Terrifying’: A Reading of the Madhouse Chapter in Robert Musil’s The Man without Qualities
    (pp. 130-144)
    Geoffrey C. Howes

    In Book II, Chapter 33, of his magnum opusThe Man without Qualities(1930–1932), titled ‘The Lunatics Greet Clarisse’, the Austrian author Robert Musil recounts a visit to an insane asylum in Vienna by the protagonist Ulrich and several other characters.¹ This essay traces the origins of this fictional account of a European mental institution before the First World War in Musil’s diaries, and then situates it within the novel’s plot and social and cultural concerns. Finally, it examines what the ‘madhouse’ chapter might tell us about the relationship between madness and modernity in Austria and Vienna around the...

  13. Chapter 9 Reason Dazzled: Klimt, Krakauer and the Eyes of the Medusa
    (pp. 145-161)
    Luke Heighton

    For Foucault, writing in the nineteenth century, it was in the journey through madness ‘that man, even in his reason, could become a concrete truth and an object for his own gaze’.² Indeed, madness has become something of a tool, frequently deployed in what can be termed the ‘measuring of modernity’, or at least those discourses we recognise as peculiarly ‘modern’. First appearing in 1961, Foucault’s monumentalHistory of Madnessis perhaps only the most visible of texts that have sought to shed light on modernity’s complex relationship with the irrational. Unreason, as Foucault sees it, is not madness itself,...

  14. Chapter 10 Mapping the Sanatorium: Heinrich Obersteiner and the Art of Psychiatric Patients in Oberdöbling around 1900
    (pp. 162-181)
    Anna Lehninger

    In 1920, Professor Heinrich Obersteiner (1847–1922), former director of thePrivatheilanstalt für Nerven- Gemüts- und Geisteskranke zu Oberdöblingin Vienna, received a letter from Dr. Hans Prinzhorn (1886–1933), assistant at the Psychiatric University Clinic in Heidelberg. In keeping with the many letters he sent across Europe at this time, Prinzhorn inquired after artistic works by psychiatric patients. In the following months and years, thousands of art works were sent to Heidelberg to create what was to become known as the collection of the ‘artistry of the mentally ill,’ (‘Bildnerei der Geiseskranken’), today compromising the Prinzhorn Collection.¹

    In response...

  15. Chapter 11 The Württemberg Asylum of Schussenried: A Psychiatric Space and Its Encounter with Literature and Culture from the ‘Outside’
    (pp. 182-199)
    Thomas Müller and Frank Kuhn

    This essay deals with the social history of an upper Swabian asylum at the close of the nineteenth century, its internal living conditions and the encounters of asylum inmates with the ‘outer’ world as well as the representation of these perspectives in different media and literature. In the first section, we shall introduce the history and characteristics of the treatment facility itself. In the main section, we shall analyse different journeys between the worlds ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the asylum walls as well as their literary and material manifestations in order to discuss the characteristics of everyday life in the asylum...

  16. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 200-203)
  17. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 204-206)
  18. Index
    (pp. 207-213)