My Own Private Germany
Daniel Paul Schreber's Secret History of Modernity
By (author) Eric L. Santner
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My Own Private Germany by Eric L. Santner
Book DescriptionIn November 1893, Daniel Paul Schreber, recently named presiding judge of the Saxon Supreme Court, was on the verge of a psychotic breakdown and entered a Leipzig psychiatric clinic. He would spend the rest of the nineteenth century in mental institutions. Once released, he published his Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (1903), a harrowing account of real and delusional persecution, political intrigue, and states of sexual ecstasy as God's private concubine. Freud's famous case study of Schreber elevated the Memoirs into the most important psychiatric textbook of paranoia. In light of Eric Santner's analysis, Schreber's text becomes legible as a sort of "nerve bible" of fin-de-siecle preoccupations and obsessions, an archive of the very phantasms that would, after the traumas of war, revolution, and the end of empire, coalesce into the core elements of National Socialist ideology. The crucial theoretical notion that allows Santner to pass from the "private" domain of psychotic disturbances to the "public" domain of the ideological and political genesis of Nazism is the "crisis of investiture." Schreber's breakdown was precipitated by a malfunction in the rites and procedures through which an individual is endowed with a new social status: his condition became acute just as he was named to a position of ultimate symbolic authority. The Memoirs suggest that we cross the threshold of modernity into a pervasive atmosphere of crisis and uncertainty when acts of symbolic investiture no longer usefully transform the subject's self understanding. At such a juncture, the performative force of these rites of institution may assume the shape of a demonic persecutor, some "other" who threatens our borders and our treasures. Challenging other political readings of Schreber, Santner denies that Schreber's delusional system--his own private Germany--actually prefigured the totalitarian solution to this defining structural crisis of modernity. Instead, Santner shows how this tragic figure succeeded in avoiding the totalitarian temptation by way of his own series of perverse identifications, above all with women and Jews.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780691026275
(229mm x 152mm x 14mm)
Imprint: Princeton University Press
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publish Date: 15-Dec-1997
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author Eric L. Santner
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Shows how the problem of neighbor love opens questions that are fundamental to ethical inquiry and suggest a new theological configuration of political theory. This title explores today's central historical problem: the persistence of the theological in the political.
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On Creaturely Life, Paperback (June 2006)» View all books by Eric L. Santner
In his own reading of Rainer Maria Rilke, Martin Heidegger reclaims the open as the proper domain of human existence, but suggests that human life remains haunted by vestiges of an animal-like relation to its surroundings. Walter Benjamin, in turn, was to show that such vestiges have a biopolitical aspect.
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