The Literary Perversion: The Invention of Masochism at the Fin-de-siècle

  • Barbara Mennel


Let us thus begin with the pivotal moment when Richard von Krafft-Ebing turned aesthetics—Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s literature— into sexual science by inventing masochism as part of his catalogue of perversions. The singular importance of masochism for the history of psychiatry and later for psychoanalysis lies in its emphasis on fantasy, and the centrality of fantasy leads to the recurring theme of literature in Krafft-Ebing’s discourse on masochism: first, in his use of Sacher-Masoch’s name to label the perversion; second, in his own repeated references to authors and their works; and last, in the references to literature by his masochistic patients. This chapter addresses the different ways in which literature frames the perversion of masochism in Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis.


Austrian Emperor Domestic Labor Revere Author Aesthetic Sensibility Lunatic Asylum 
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© Barbara Mennel 2007

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  • Barbara Mennel

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