Thursday, February 16, 2012

Madness and Modernity


From this 2009 book about art and mental illness in Vienna circa 1900, RE Arthur Schnitzler's 1902 story "Die Fremde" ("The Unknown Woman"):

"In 'Die Fremde' Albert awakes on his honeymoon... to find a note from his bride Katharina saying she may not return. Albert's recollections, which comprise most of the subsequent narrative, explain why this comes as no surprise to him.... [Katharina] began to show immediate and passionate attachments to men she hardly knew, as well as signs of a mental disorder that gradually increased to the point of of the deepest depression.... After Katharina seemingly recovered, Albert met her and fell deeply in love. He recalls instance after instance in which she strayed from him to unknown men, and became obsessed even with artistic images. Finally he realised that he meant no more to her than these casual but passionate affections. Still, they married, though she remained as unknown to him as on the day they met. When she leaves him on their honeymoon, Albert kills himself. In the last paragraph we read that Katharina is pregnant by a man she casually encountered..., from whom she never hears again. This is a tale of two pathologies -- Katharina's obsession with strange men and Albert's obsession with the unknown woman. His deluded love causes him to compensate for and forgive her disorder, but he cannot live with it, and so he becomes its victim as well."

Whoa! :) You know what's first funnily surprising and then really sad and then boring to me? Case-study pathologies played out at the turn of the LAST century that I have been hooked into for the past 10 years! AAAARGGGGH! I've been a stereotypical "Albert" to the proto-Freud-women!

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