Tales of Hypnotic Crime

Stefan Andriopoulos

in Possessed

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780226020549
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226020570 | DOI:
Tales of Hypnotic Crime

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This chapter analyzes competing late nineteenth-century medical theories of “suggestion” to establish the constitutive role of literary fiction for the lively scientific debate about hypnotic crimes. Whereas Jean-Martin Charcot and his disciples denied the possibility of so-called criminal suggestions, the physicians of the Nancy school substituted literary stories for actual cases within their treatises about hypnotism and crime. At the same time, narratives and novels such as Guy de Maupassant's Le Horla or Gregor Samarow's Under a Foreign Will cited the forensic debate about the irresistible power of suggestion, thereby imbuing the literary description of possessed bodies with scientific legitimacy. The enormously popular tales of hypnotic crime accordingly emerged from a mutual exchange of rhetorical tropes, scientific concepts, and narrative patterns among law, literature, and medicine. Juridical, literary, and medical representations of criminal suggestion mutually presupposed and engendered each other.

Keywords: medical theories; literary fiction; criminal suggestion; hypnotism; Jean-Martin Charcot; Guy de Maupassant; Gregor Samarow

Chapter.  9457 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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