Sex, Crime, and Utopia in Vienna and Berlin, 1860-1914
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Author: Scott Spector
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
The year 1900, fin de siecle, in Europe evokes polar thoughts: on the one hand, sensational slashers and femmes fatales, destitute and dangerous new urban districts, criminal violence and sexual excess; on the other, science and reason triumphant, a near arrogant confidence in progress, the emergence of new expert knowledge. The tensions between these poles take on the character of a single myth, a story of origins, essences, and destinies that Scott Spector tells through a focus on Vienna and Berlin. Together, these two cities stand for the New Metropolis, crucial sites in the development of modern conceptions of gender and sexuality, also of political emancipation movements these conceptions inspired. Vienna and Berlin witnessed the birth of the science of sexology, the earliest articulations of homosexuality as an identity, the concomitant movement to abolish persecution of sexual minorities, and the first-wave feminisms of the turn of the century. These cities also, and simultaneously became host to fantasies of violence associated with liminal figures: the pervasive image of the dangerous and erotic femme fatale, reports and fictions of sexual murder, along with the violent underworld of prostitution, and the surprising and forceful reemergence of the blood libel, representations of homosexual rings or secret associations. Spector shows how these prurient fantasies were given life in high culture (literature and philosophy), science (especially sexology, urban sociology, and criminology), and popular culture (including pulp novels as well as sensational court cases reported in the popular press). Among the characters populating Spector s account are Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (homosexual emancipation leader), Karl Kraus (playwright, poet, satirist), Otto Weininger (misogynist, anti-Semitic medical philosopher), Robert Musil (master novelist of violent fantasy), Rosa Mayreder, and other feminists, and Georg Simmel (sociologist of the city). As a contribution to modernist studies and European cultural history, Spector s book will win awards, and as a contribution to the history of sexuality, criminology, psychology, and ideas, it will find classroom use eventually. It s pathbreaking, and it s great reading."