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Full-Text Articles in Comparative Literature
Power, Sexuality, And The Masochistic Aesthetic From Sacher-Masoch To Kharms, Maya Vinokour
Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations
This project centers on what I call the “masochistic aesthetic,” which emerged as literature dovetailed with medicine and law in German-speaking Europe and Russia around 1900. I argue that incipient totalitarian societies instrumentalized art and literature to produce citizens who enthusiastically consented to painful social discipline — that is, political masochists. Masochistic narratives like Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs (1870), Anton Chekhov’s The Duel (1891), or Andrei Platonov’s Happy Moscow (1933-6) reflect the ethnographic attention to borderlands, regulation of the body, and indefinite delay of pleasure inherent in the imperial or totalitarian settings that engendered them. After ...