Possessed: Hypnotic Crimes, Corporate Fiction, and the Invention of Cinema

By Stefan Andriopoulos; Peter Jansen | Go to book overview

I.
TALES OF HYPNOTIC CRIME

Medical practice has no real autonomy; it lives on borrowings and applications.

Jean-Martin Charcot, Lectures on the Diseases of the Nervous System (1886)

It is here that the actual hypnotic novel begins. Albert von Schrenck-Notzing,

The Czynski Trial: Expert Opinion on the Impairment of Free Will as a Consequence
of Hypnotic-Suggestive Influence
(1895)

In Guy de Maupassant’s Le Horla, it remains uncertain whether the possession by an alien being, so minutely recorded in the unnamed narrator’s diary does in fact occur at the level of concrete action and plot.1 Even the narrator himself considers the possibility that he has become the “plaything of his fevered imagination”—unless he is somehow a “somnambulist or the victim of one of those precisely documented but nevertheless inexplicable influences called suggestions.”2 As this reference to precise documentation indicates, the literary narrative appropriates a vast medical debate about hypnosis and suggestion. Le Horla not only refers to late-nineteenth-century theories of brain localization that ascribed specific mental functions to certain areas of the brain: “Men who have survived accidents lose their capacity for remembering names or verbs or numbers or just dates. The locations of all parts of thought have now been definitely established.” At a dinner given by his cousin, the narrator also encounters a physician who reports extensively on the astounding experiments performed in contemporary medical research on

1. This structural ambiguity is also emphasized in Tzetvan Todorov’s The Fantastic
(1975), 86.

2. Maupassant, LeHorla ([1887] 1979/1990), 921/283.

-19-

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Possessed: Hypnotic Crimes, Corporate Fiction, and the Invention of Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • I- Tales of Hypnotic Crime 19
  • II- Invisible Corporate Bodies 42
  • III- - Staging the Hypnotic Crime 66
  • IV- Bernheim, Caligari, Mabuse- Cinema and Hypnotism 91
  • V- Human and Corporate Bodies in Broch and Kafka 128
  • Epilogue 157
  • Appendix A- Filmography 163
  • Bibliography 171
  • Index 203
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