»Les journées ne durent plus«: Psychopathological Proper Times in German and French Literature from the Late Nineteenth to Mid-Twentieth Century
The objective of the project is to conduct a comprehensive study of literary texts that attempt to consider proper time as a »cardinal symptom« of mental illness. Accordingly, for defining proper time contemporaries asserted a difference both to an objective, external, quantitative time and to an internal, qualitative experience in a non-mentally ill environment.
This project will contribute to literary studies by analyzing German and French literature from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century considering its complex reciprocal relationship with the contemporary field of psychiatry and philosophy of time. Thus, it is necessary to also take psychiatric texts into consideration in addition to literary texts. On the one hand, psychiatric texts profit from literary ones and on the other, however, literature also refers to psychiatric texts in order to adapt psychiatric figures of thought with respect to the development and constellation of figures, plot development and literary diction or aesthetic models.
The project will differentiate between a neurotic and psychotic paradigm, which irrespective of a certain overlap are chronologically nonetheless situated in different realms: the heightened interest of German and French literatures in the relationship between (implicit) proper time and neurotic psychopathology spans – according to initial considerations – from 1890s to the 1920s, while the heightened interest of literature in proper time within the framework of psychotic disorder begins in the 1910s.
The first working hypothesis underlying the project maintains that German (and French) literature in the neurotic paradigm draws on psychiatric figures of thought such as trauma, amnesia and déjà vu, which pertaining to their pathology indeed possess chronological aspects, but are not spelled out nosologically. As a consequence, in literature these figures of thought are often explicated using structural models of the philosophy of time and/or mysticism.
In the psychotic paradigm – according to the second working thesis – the starting point is a bit more complex: The German (and French) literature inscribes itself into the above-described literary tradition by explicating psychiatric concepts of time in a philosophical and theological manner. However, this model needs to be reformulated with respect to the now greater interest in psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, epilepsy and others. In this context, the German and French literature engages in a dialogue with the (itself philosophically oriented) psychiatry of Gebsattel, Straus, Jaspers, Binswanger and others in Germany, and of Minkowski and Janet in France, which starting in the 1920s formulated explicit models of psychopathological proper time.