Ambivalent Liaisons. Sexuality between Pathology and Criminality in Viennese Modernism
The project seeks out specific literary and cultural texts from the turn of the 20th century in Vienna where the understanding of sexual difference based on pathologization and hereditariness came into violent contact with the carceral and criminal demands of the state and the multiple scenarios, thematic constellations, and genres in which this entanglement is staged. By zeroing in on the moment of translation, that is, the textual instance where these rival forces are negotiated, this project seeks to illuminate the peripheral discourses of sexuality, particularly the opening of discursive fields of queerness and sex work.
This project intervenes at the site of this entanglement, where numerous authors associated with Viennese Modernism attempted to highlight the increasingly aporetic affiliation between a modern understanding of sexuality based on »scientific knowledge« and a staid political paradigm. In re-excavating Psychopathia Sexualis and other texts arising from the University of Vienna’s Department of Psychiatry at the turn of the 20th century under the leadership of Krafft-Ebing this project emphasizes the myriad ways in which psychiatric texts and their subsequent public commentary created the social frictions and contradictions which the authors of Viennese Modernism took up with unbridled curiosity.
Aviv Hilbig-Bokaer is a PhD student in the Department of German at New York University, where he works on literature and visual culture of the early 20th century. With a particular focus on illness, psychoanalysis, and queer studies, he has written on Klaus and Erika Mann, Franz Kafka, and Thomas Bernhard. He received his BA summa cum laude from Clark University in Comparative Literature and International Development.
From 2017 to 2019 he was an English Teaching Assistant at three Viennese Gymnasien through a program administered by Fulbright Austria. In 2020 he was a research fellow at the State Library of Berlin working on an archival project which uncovered the early theater criticism of Klaus Mann. In summer 2021 he was awarded a short-term DAAD fellowship for a project entitled Erika Mann and Transatlantic Antifascist Cabaret, in collaboration with the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. In 2022 he was an Andrew W. Mellon Public Humanities fellow at the Modern Language Association in the Department of Academic Programming and Professional Development. Prior to arriving at the ifk, Aviv was a Graduate Research Fellow at New York University in Paris where he simultaneously held the Mainzer Fellowship for research on the history of sexuality.
»Public Humanities Certificate Programs: Critical Scholarship for the Twenty-First Century«, in: Modern Language Association Jobs Blog, 2022; »A Public Diagnosis: Destabilizing Scandal, Anxiety, and Medicine in Klaus Mann’s Barred Window«, in: South Atlantic Review, vol. 87, No. 2. 2022, S. 159–167; »Silent Hourglass; Nostalgia in Christian Marclay’s Cyanotypes«, in: Nancy Burns und Kristina Wilson (Hg.), Cyanotypes: Photography’s Blue Period, Worcester Art Museum, 2016.
The turn of the 20th century in Vienna saw the explosion of discursive and scientific appropriations of sexual difference based on new scientific paradigms of pathologization and hereditariness. Challenging both social and political exigencies, these new formations came into violent contact with the conservative carceral and criminal demands of the state vis-à-vis sexual deviance