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The Gendered Fantasy of Masochistic Aesthetics: Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs

  • Barbara Mennel

Abstract

While chapter one examined the literary qualities of masochism as perversion, this chapter focuses on Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, the novel generally viewed as the blueprint of masochistic aesthetics.1 My emphasis here is not on aesthetics as pure realm devoid of politics and history; rather, the theoretical productivity of masochistic aesthetics resides in its integration of the spheres of the psyche and history, sexuality and politics. Masochistic aesthetics provides a narrative form for the staging of submission as a power-reversal that historically prefigured masochism defined as perversion by Krafft-Ebing. Masochistic aesthetics emphasizes fantasy organized around a fetish in a reversal of power relationships. In a highly theatricalized setting, a woman is educated to be dominant, and the submission of the male is codified in a contract. The narrative structure consists of a narrative frame of the “real” that contains the inner narrative of the masochistic fantasy. These features of masochistic aesthetics characterize both Sacher-Masoch’s literature and the accounts by Krafft-Ebing’s patients.

Keywords

Nineteenth Century Narrative Structure Political Efficacy Beautiful Woman Black Marble 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Barbara Mennel 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Mennel

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