Sigmund Freud and Arthur Schnitzler in Turn of the Century Vienna



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Traumnovelle was written in 1926 and examines sexual fantasy inside and outside the confines of marriage. It is largely a commentary on the social norms of the time; the relationship between the bourgeoisie world and the so-called “underworld” of pleasure. Further, it deals with the idea of a multi-layered identity and the resolution of these layers. Traumnovelle follows the steps of Doctor Fridolin as he engages in a journey of self-discovery, by detailing his thoughts and psychological transformations.

Doctor Fridolin and his wife, Albertine appear to be a couple of upstanding morality and class in Viennese society. However, their desire for other partners places great strain on the couple’s marriage. The tension begins when Albertine admits to lusting for another man when her and Doctor Fridolin were on vacation years ago. Being suddenly called away, because of the death of a friend, Doctor Fridolin and Albertine do not fully resolve this issue. Throughout the course of his evening, Doctor Fridolin is seduced by a series of women and is increasingly tempted by each of them. The first is the daughter of the man who had died, whom he dismisses fairly easily. The second is Mizzi, a prostitute he meets on the street. Doctor Fridolin contemplates whether or not to engage in sexual relations with the prostitute:

“—bin ich verrückt? Fragte er sich. Ich werde sie natürlich nicht anrühren.”24

After deciding to accompany the young prostitute to her house, Doctor Fridolin again questions his decision to join her and thus questions his identity, as others would perceive it:

“Wer auf der Welt möchte vermuten, dachte er, dass ich mich jetzt gerade in diesem Raum befinde? Hätte ich selbst es vor einer Stunde, vor zehn Minuten für möglich gehalten? Und warum? Warum?”25

Psychoanalytic themes are seen in the preceding passages. Doctor Fridolin struggles with the concept of his own sanity when he questions his potential actions with the prostitute. His attempts to resolve an ego conflict are thus expressed. Further, when he ponders what others would think of him being involved in such circumstances, the inner workings of his superego are shown.

Finally, he meets a woman at a masquerade party. His distrust of his wife has grown throughout the night, as he realizes that he himself cannot be trusted. The last woman is of particular interest because she sacrifices herself for Doctor Fridolin’s safety. He gains entrance to the masquerade party when his friend, who plays piano for the guests, reveals the password to him. The party consists of devious sexual activity and shortly after his arrival, he is discovered to be an outsider and asked to remove his mask. He refuses to do so and thus puts himself in mortal danger. The masked woman says that she will take his burden and at this proclamation, Doctor Fridolin is immediately removed from the party. It is interesting to note that the masked state of the guests of the party can be considered representative of the façade of Vienna at the turn of the century. The people at the party, like the citizens of Vienna are forced to mask themselves, hiding their identity while indulging in their true desires. Doctor Fridolin later discovers that the woman was killed in order to spare him. The guilt he feels because of this, plagues him.

In the end, after Doctor Fridolin’s night of temptation, he decides to admit everything to his wife. Shockingly, the couple chooses to maintain an ignorance of their problems over awareness in order to maintain their “dream” of high society life. This again goes back to the idea that the desire to maintain this façade is greater than the need or will to deal with “existential isolation.”26

A second example of Schnitzler’s work worth noting is Fräulein Else. He achieved great success with this story, written in 1923, which depicts the inner monologue of a woman who struggles with the responsibility of preserving her family’s honor. She must expose herself to Herr von Dorsday, a man who could potentially bring her family into ruin. The story ultimately ends with her suicide and is an example of the idea that people often use hysteria as a coping strategy in the face of overwhelming societal pressures. 27 In Fräulein Else, Schnitzler sets up the “triadic structures” of suicide victim, pretext, and actual perpetrator. He goes further to discuss the ego-split that must occur to actually commit suicide. Dagmar Lorenz describes this state:

“…[it] has three components; Else steps out of her body and contemplates herself as a spectacle, assuming the role of simultaneous actress, stage, and audience.”28

And goes further to explain that:

“Schnitzler shifts between extremes, between radical change and continuity, making suicide as much as act of resistance to the status quo as a reconciliatory act, a feasible solution to a dilemma.”29

Here it is evident that Else’s suicide stems from a desire to return to a state of quite, a direct connection to Freud’s idea of the death drive. She constantly bombards herself with questions in order to mentally resolve her dilemma of exposing herself, an act she feels obligated to do at times and at other times not. Here she is about to go through with her “obligation”:

“’Herrn von Dorsday,’ Zimmer Nummer fünfundsechzig. Wozu die Nummer? Ich lege ihm den Brief einfach vor die Tür im Verbeigehen. Aber ich muss nicht. Ich muss überhaupt gar nichts. Wenn es mir beliebt, kann ich mich jetzt auch ins Bett legen und schlafen und mich um nichts mehr kümmern. Nicht um den Herrn von Dorsday und nicht um den Papa. Ein gestreifter Sträflingsanzug ist auch ganz elegant. Und erschossen haben sich schon viele. Und sterben müssen wir alle.”30

This passage, which is representative of Schnitzler’s style throughout the entire story, illustrates Fräulein Else’s inner struggle. She questions each one of her actions, showing that she is unsure of them. For some time now, before exposing herself to Herr von Dorsday, Fräulein Else has been toying with the idea of suicide. She justifies this course of action by saying that many people have killed themselves and that ultimately everyone must die. From a psychoanalytic perspective Fräulein Else is attempting to resolve the conflicting signals coming from her id and superego. She does indeed expose herself to Herr von Dorsday in front of a room of people and subsequently commits suicide by taking poison. The final reactions of the people around her are unknown because the story is told through her inner monologue and thus the resolution of the story is her suicide.

Despite his declaration that he doesn’t want his literary writing to be associated with Psychoanalysis and the work of Sigmund Freud, Arthur Schnitzler is undeniably wrestling with psychoanalytic issues. The state of Vienna at the turn of the century makes it impossible for these issues to not be somehow incorporated in his work; they affected every citizen in the city. This is seen both in Traumnovelle and Fräulein Else, which deal with the resolution of conflict within the human psyche.

In conclusion, Sigmund Freud and Arthur Schnitzler are two men ultimately linked by the society in which they lived. The themes of love and death, as expressed in Freud’s theory and Arthur Schnitzler’s writing, are indicative of a time in which Viennese society had great influence over its citizens. One cannot take into account their success without bearing in mind the context in which these two men were working. Freud’s theories were driven by a need to understand the human psyche in turn of the century Vienna and Arthur Schnitzler worked to achieve the same goal through literature. Perhaps they were Doppelgänger; each the other’s missing half and each working to understand themselves and ultimately the human condition. What one can be certain of is that both men worked to resolve the conflict caused by the imposed façade Vienna placed on its citizens during the turn of the century and found profound success in their own individual ways, Freud through psychology and Schnitzler through literature.

References


Beller, Steven. Rethinking Vienna 1900. New York: Berghahn Books, 2001.
Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1961.
Hofmann, Paul. The Viennese: Spendor, Twilight, and Exile. New York: Anchor Press Doubleday, 1988.
Laplanche, Jean. Life and death in psychoanalysis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.
Lorenz, Dagmar C.G. A Companion to the Works of Arthur Schnitzler. New York: Camden House, 2003.
Morton, Frederic. A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889. New York: Penguin Books, 1980.
Rau, Petra, University of Portsmouth. "Arthur Schnitzler." The Literary Encyclopedia. 17 Nov. 2003. The Literary Dictionary Company. 9 March 2006. http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=5412
Schnitzler, Arthur. Die Erzählenden Schriften: Zweiter Band. Frankfurt am Mein: Fischer Verlag, 1961.
Schnitzler, Arthur. Fräulein Else: A Novel. Trans. Robert A Simon. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1930.
Schnitzler, Arthur. Rhapsody: A Dream Novel. Trans. Otto P. Schinnerer. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1927.
Schorske, Carl E. Fin-de-siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture. New York: Vintage Books, 1981.
St. Clair, Michael and Jodie Wigren. Object Relations and Self Psychology: an Introduction (4th Edition). Belmont: Brooks/Cole—Thomson Learning, 2004.
Swales, Martin. Arthur Schnitzler: A critical study. London: Oxford University Press, 1971.
Yamanishi, David. “Freud Timeline,” July 20, 2004. http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/classes/cluster21/wiki/index.pl?FreudTimeline (1/6/06).


1Paul Hofmann, The Viennese: Spendor, Twilight, and Exile (New York: Anchor Press Doubleday, 1988), 211.

2 Hofmann, The Viennese: Spendor, Twilight, 212.

3 Frederic Morton, A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889 (New York: Penguin Books, 1980), 315.

4 Morton, A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889, 315.

5 Morton, A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889, 316.

6 Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture, (New York: Vintage Books, 1981), 6.

7 Steven Beller, Rethinking Vienna 1900, (New York: Berghahn Books, 2001), 19.

8 David Yamanishi, “Freud Timeline,” July 20, 2004. http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/classes/cluster21/wiki/index.pl?FreudTimeline (1/6/06).

9 David Yamanishi, “Freud Timeline,” July 20, 2004. http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/classes/cluster21/wiki/index.pl?FreudTimeline (1/6/06).

10 David Yamanishi, “Freud Timeline,” July 20, 2004. http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/classes/cluster21/wiki/index.pl?FreudTimeline (1/6/06).

11 Schorske, Fin-de-siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture, 186.

12 David Yamanishi, “Freud Timeline,” July 20, 2004. http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/classes/cluster21/wiki/index.pl?FreudTimeline (1/6/06).

13 Hofmann, The Viennese: Spendor, Twilight, 162.

14 Petra Rau, University of Portsmouth. "Arthur Schnitzler." The Literary Encyclopedia. 17 Nov. 2003. The Literary Dictionary Company. 9 March 2006.

15 Petra Rau, University of Portsmouth. "Arthur Schnitzler." The Literary Encyclopedia. 17 Nov. 2003. The Literary Dictionary Company. 9 March 2006.

16 Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (New York: W.W. Norton & Company In., 1961), 30-32.

17 Michael St. Clair, Object Relations and Self Psychology: an Introduction (Belmont: Brooks/Cole—Thomson Learning, 2004), 206.

18 David Yamanishi, “Freud Timeline,” July 20, 2004. http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/classes/cluster21/wiki/index.pl?FreudTimeline (1/6/06).

19 Jean Laplanche, Life and death in Psychoanalysis (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 107.

20 Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 6-7.

21 Beller, Rethinking Vienna 1900, 161.

22 Dagmar C. G. Lorenz, A Companion to the Works of Arthur Schnitzler, (New York: Camden House, 2003), 131.

23 Martin Swales, Arthur Schnitzler: A critical study, (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), 120.

24Arthur Schnitzler, Die Erzählenden Schriften: Zweiter Band, (Frankfurt am Mein: Fischer Verlag, 1961), 449. Translation by Otto P. Schinnerer (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1927), 40: “Am I mad? He asked himself. Of course I will have nothing to do with her.”

25 Schnitzler, Die Erzählenden Schriften: Zweiter Band, 450. Translation by Otto P. Schinnerer (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1927), 41: “Who in the world would suspect that I am here in this room at this moment? Fridolin thought. I’d never have thought it possible an hour or even ten minutes ago—And why? Why am I here?”

26 Lorenz, A Companion to the Works of Arthur Schnitzler, 134.

27 Hofmann, The Viennese: Spendor, Twilight, 212.

28 Lorenz, A Companion to the Works of Arthur Schnitzler, 341.

29 Lorenz, A Companion to the Works of Arthur Schnitzler, 341.

30 Schnitzler, Die Erzählenden Schriften: Zweiter Band, 366. Translation by Robert A Simon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1930), 108: “’Herr von Dorsday,’ Room Number Sixty-five? Why use the number? I’ll just drop the letter at his door as I go by. But I needn’t. I needn’t do anything. If I felt like it, I could lie in bed now, and sleep, and do no more worrying about anything. Not about Herr von Dorsday, and not about Father. A striped convict’s uniform really is very stylish, and many people have killed themselves. After all, everyone must die.”





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