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Title: Pieces of Mind: Making and Unmaking a Lexicon of the Psyche in Central and Eastern European Literary Modernity (1880-1930)
Authors: Reilly, Catherine Irene
Advisors: Emerson, Caryl
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: Anton Chekhov
Daniel Paul Schreber
Eastern Europe
Subjects: Comparative literature
Slavic literature
German literature
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation offers a critical account of literature’s stakes in the development of a systematized international classification scheme and vocabulary to describe mental illness in the late nineteenth century, within a context of post-Enlightenment trends to measure the human subject. Avant-garde literary experimentation in the institutional crucible of the mind sciences (Russia, Germany, Austro-Hungary) contributed to struggles to scientifically standardize representations of the interiority of the self, from the 1880s to today’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Mental pathology was one of the last subjects to be standardized by Enlightenment rationalism (after time, weights and measures, etc.). Its codification coincided with rising interest in scientific understandings of the soul and transnational exchange in the mind sciences. Engaging literary texts alongside case histories, legal documentation, and visual art, I illuminate the interplay between writers with practical experience in the mind sciences, and a new clinical language of mental illness developing in parallel with psychoanalysis’ own. The dissertation demonstrates that modernist literature is an overlooked site of congruence and of conflict for anthropologies of personhood emerging at the turn of the century, recurring in a colonial context, and persisting today. I disclose the evolution of an increasingly globalized, but also structurally violent, set of standards for mental health/illness within the biopolitics of modernity. Each chapter follows a complex Enlightenment dialectic, demonstrating how writers such as Anton Chekhov, Alfred Döblin, Nikolai Evreinov, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Daniel Paul Schreber inhabited a new psychiatric language while destabilizing its ability to pinpoint psychic truth. Chapter One argues that Chekhov’s personal census of the Sakhalin penal colony illuminates the role of the archive in his later short fiction. Chapter Two tracks Schreber’s exposure to early psychiatric classifications and his subsequent incorporation of medical neologisms into his Memoirs. Chapters Three and Four assess how Russian playwright Nikolai Evreinov’s monodramas reappeared in Bolshevik mass spectacles and French Symbolism. Chapter Five reads Alfred Döblin’s Weimar true-crime novella in terms of his psychiatric practice. In a coda, I demonstrate the reemergence of the dialectic in Fanon’s clinical accounts of refugees during the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962).
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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