„Meine Nervosität“. Der autobiographische Fall in Nervenheilratgebern um 1900

Horst Gruner, Wim Peeters

Abstract


Around 1900 a wide range of self-help books adopt the tendency among laymen medical practitioners to denounce the sole authority of the medical establishment to cure mental and physical dysfunctions related to the so called “Zeitkrankheit” of neurasthenia. In different autobiographical case narratives ranging from a storyline in form of an odyssey of failed attempts to find therapeutic relief to an imaginary dialogue structuring the account, the authors use their story of successful self-healing to authorize and legitimize their positions. At the same time, on a performative level, they put themselves in the position of spokesmen for an imaginary peer group of external experts who believe that primarily the right mind set suffices to overcome their condition. Drawing on J. M. Lotman’s view on literature as a topological model-building system, the article traces how this claim against conventional medicine is made by focusing on the event of a figure transgressing the semantic boundary between heteronomy and autonomy.

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