In 1884, aged 42, Judge Daniel Paul Schreber suffered the first of a series of mental collapses that would lead to him spending the majority of his remaining 27 years in asylums. In his Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkrankem (Memoirs of My Nervous Illness), first published in 1903 and written before his release from Sonnenstein public asylum in 1902, Schreber offered a detailed account of the unique revelations and experiences that constituted his madness. These experiences included being a corpse, dead and rotting, becoming a woman — that is, being ‘unmanned’ and filled with ‘feminine voluptuousness’ — being transformed into the ‘Eternal Jew’ (Schreber, 2000: 60), being subject to continual rays and ‘nerve contact’ from God and other ‘souls’ that reached his head ‘like telephone wires’ (277) and experiencing various bodily transformations and tortures, such as ‘the head-compressing-machine’ (150) inflicted by the ‘little men’ all over his body. Schreber had been a distinguished jurist and National Liberal Party candidate before his illness, and was the son of Moritz Schreber an infamous pioneer of childcare and child-training systems. Schreber’s case articulates many of the themes of this study, themes that, through textual, cultural and theoretical events, have been discovered as processes of becoming: becoming-abject or grotesque, becoming-woman, becoming-Jew, becoming-machine.
KeywordsTheoretical Event Hinge Point Developmental Line Productive Contiguity Historical Juncture
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