The rise of the modern, hygienic city, as I have argued, is based in significant part on irrational or imaginary motivations that coalesced around the indeterminacy of death. In what follows, I will attempt to understand those forces through recourse to the psychoanalytic principle of the fantasm.1 And since this principle cannot be dissociated, in the relevant literature, from stories about origins, I will look at such stories, concentrating on those that imagine the city as a space devoted to and protected by reason. To this end, I will take the fantasm in a broad sense, understanding it both as a factor within reason itself and as a driving force within what I have earlier described as the medicalization of society, especially as that medicalization manifested itself in urban space. And if the city emerges from this discussion as a place devoted to and protected by reason, the fantasms of its origin reach back to an inexhaustible scene of desire, a scene that explains the existence of the city by framing it as an unbearable, and incomprehensible question. That question, I will argue, took plastic form in works by the popular novelists Victor Hugo and Eugene Sue, who consequently represented not only an aesthetic analysis
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Publication information: Book title: Human Remains: Medicine, Death, and Desire in Nineteenth-Century Paris. Contributors: Jonathan Strauss - Author. Publisher: Fordham University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2012. Page number: 221.
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