Silent cinema and contemporaneous literature explored themes of mesmerism, possession, and the ominous agency of corporate bodies that subsumed individual identities. At the same time, critics accused film itself of exerting a hypnotic influence over spellbound audiences. Stefan Andriopoulos shows that all this anxiety over being governed by an outside force was no marginal oddity, but rather a pervasive concern in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Tracing this preoccupation through the period’s films—as well as its legal, medical, and literary texts—Andriopoulos pays particular attention to the terrifying notion of murder committed against one’s will. He returns us to a time when medical researchers described the hypnotized subject as a medium who could be compelled to carry out violent crimes, and when films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler famously portrayed the hypnotist’s seemingly unlimited power on the movie screen. Juxtaposing these medicolegal and cinematic scenarios with modernist fiction, Andriopoulos also develops an innovative reading of Kafka’s novels, which center on the merging of human and corporate bodies.
Blending theoretical sophistication with scrupulous archival research and insightful film analysis, Possessed adds a new dimension to our understanding of today’s anxieties about the onslaught of visual media and the expanding reach of vast corporations that seem to absorb our own identities.
About the Author
Stefan Andriopoulos is associate professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Columbia University.
Table of Contents
I Tales of Hypnotic Crime
II Invisible Corporate Bodies
III Staging the Hypnotic Crime
IV Bernheim, Caligari, Mabuse: Cinema and Hypnotism
V Human and Corporate Bodies in Broch and Kafka
Appendix A. Filmography