R. Gray
German 390/ Comp. Lit. 396/Engl 363/CHID 498/JSIS 488/Lit 298

"Freud and the Literary Imagination"

Ingeborg Bachmann, The Book of Franza

I. Course Context

A. Previous literary texts we have read were contemporaneous with Freud and the development of his theories; Bachmann's novel represents a later reflection on psychoanalytical theory, its development, and its place in Western intellectual history.

1. At the same time Freud was discovering the psyche and theorizing about its operation, literary (and other) artists were exploring similar questions in their art (fiction).

2. Early decades of 20th century = productive cross-fertilization between literary artists and psychoanalytic theory. Not simply the influence of Freud on writers, but a reflection of similar ideas and concerns, problems, insights, etc.

3. What gives these literary and psychoanalytic reflections their coherence is their common response to the crises of modernity = a crisis of humanity, civilization. Joint point of departure: the failure of Enlightenment, skepticism about the "perfectibility" of human beings. History no longer conceived as the story of continual progress, the gradual development of humankind to a state of perpetual peace. This is coupled with a loss of faith in the Judeo-Christian narrative of human redemption from evil.

4. Modernism, and psychoanalysis as part of the modernist movement, represents at least in part an attempt to examine the causes of an evolution of humanity and civilization toward greater conflict, to explain the existence of human brutality, violence, domination over others, etc.

5. The "modern," psychoanalytic answer: the cause of this is something that resides within human beings themselves. Not an outside "fate" or seduction by some outside "devil": human beings are their own Mephistopheles.

6. We are reminded how Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents explains humanity's failure to rally around the banner of Eros and mutual cooperation by pointing to a "piece of unconquered nature" (that is, instinct), as the source of human social misery.

B. Writers we have examined explore this piece of unconquered nature in various ways:

1. Schnitzler, Gustl: focus on human egoism, absolute submission to the "pleasure principle";

2. Kafka, "Country Doctor": human ambivalence that stems from a conflict between the demands of the self (erotic drives) and those placed on us by civilization, society, human interaction ("ambition");

3. Kafka, "Judgment": the violence of interhuman, interfamilial relations are turned against the self; the self as oppressed, tyrannized by external demands;

4. Mann, "Death in Venice": humans follow irrational pursuits even at the price of their own extinction; our instincts are stronger than our sense of self-preservation;

5. Musil, Törless: explores how "Others" are defined through the insider/outsider dynamic, and investigates the different forms that violence against the social Other can take and the connection of this violence to sexuality; Torless also points to the role of "experiment" and analytical "investigation" of the others in the development of the individual self;

6. Hofmannsthal, "Tale of the Cavalry": emphasizes the conflict between the individual and the social order and exposes the internalization of this conflict in the form of what Freud calls the formation of the super-ego. The recognition that when we exercise repression we do the bidding of the social order at the price of putting the ego at risk.

C. If all these texts and (male) writers confirm and affirm differing aspects of Freudian theory and present it in distinct ways, Bachmann's approach is quite different.

1. If for previous writers psychoanalysis represents a critical tool, an instrument that helps us understand (and hopefully then resolve) human conflict and self-oppression, Bachmann views psychoanalysis as a symptom of this human self-oppression itself. Psychoanalysis is, as it were, a continuation of the same war by different, more subtle means. Karl Kraus (Viennese writer and journalist, contemporary of Freud's): "Psychoanalysis is that illness for which it takes itself to be the cure."

2. This critique is fundamentally related to Freud's self-understanding of his psychoanalytic project as based in empirical science. For Bachmann it is analytical science itself that has become suspect as a tool of oppression. Instead of breaking with the Enlightenment model of discipline through analysis and reason, psychoanalysis furthers this project. Indeed, it extends and refines it by subjecting the internal life of the individual to the disciplining analysis of reason.

3. Psychoanalysis for Bachmann marks the turn of the terror of Enlightenment into a more subtle form of psychological terror. Leo Jordan, the representative of psychoanalysis in Bachmann's novel, turns his own wife into a psychoanalytical case study. He is not the "passive" analyst of his wife's "illness," but rather the active constructor of her symptoms. She becomes an experimental object on which he tries out certain strategies. His "medicine" is based on manipulation; his actions are guided by tactics, intelligence, subtlety, aggression, and a will to power over his object (his wife). (See Franza, pp. 75-76)

4. Psychoanalysis as a colonization of the human psyche, an extension of the colonial paradigm of patronizing overpowerment ("It's for your own good!"; "We're only trying to help!"; "We will make you civilized and you will be happy!"; see Franza, p. 112: "We will cure you") into the domain of the psyche. This is marked in Bachmann's text by the convergence of two motifs joined by the symbolism of the color "white": the "whites" who rob the graves of the Egyptian Pharaohs and who colonize the Third World, who are also associated with the racist ideologies of National Socialism; the "white" lab coats of the primary antagonists in the text, Dr. Leo Jordan, who studies the "Nazi Doctors" and their experiments, and Dr. Körner, the exiled Viennese doctor who conducted experiments in euthanasia on women during the Third Reich.

a. These two dimensions of the narrative are tied together by Franza's gas chamber dream, in which she imagines her husband Jordan as a Nazi doctor at a concentration camp putting her in a shower and turning on the gas. (See Franza, pp. 70 and 77)

5. Bachmann thus takes a critical perspective on Freud and Freudianism, on theories of the psyche and psychoanalysis in general:

a. Psychoanalysis develops more subtle, indirect means for the coercion of other human beings.

b. Psychological understanding is developed and applied solely as a tool for the manipulation of others; as a way to make them do your bidding for you; of implanting within them the mechanisms that will make them controllable.

c. Psychoanalysis as an extension of the fascist drive to manipulate others through "propaganda": Bachmann: "Fascism begins in relations between people. Fascism is the primary element in the relationship between a man and a woman" ("Introduction to Franza, p. viii; cf. also Franza's reflections on the nature of evil, p. 69f., and her thoughts about the displacement of fascism onto personal relationships (Franza, pp. 75-6).

d. Women represent the subordinate, the object of mastery; the manipulable group par excellence. Hysteria is nothing but a symptom of women's brutalization by and subordination to men. This relationship is modeled in the relationship between the analyst and the analysand, the (male) psychoanalyst and his (female) patient.

e. Franza tells the "Dora" story from the inside and with a critical perspective. It relates how one woman is victimized by a series of men to the point of being driven to suicide. Her fate is representative not only for the fates of all women, but also for all victims of reason, science, colonialism, power, etc. She is the prototype of the "subaltern," the demeaned other. In short, Franza stands in for the Jews murdered in the Holocaust, the Gypsies, Blacks, those who are colonized and subjugated in any manner. See in this regard Franza's deliberations on the relationship between her individual story and the "larger history" of oppression (p. 107). This is also reflected in mastery over nature, as manifest in the building of the Aswan Dam and the control over nature that it represents.

f. This more general problem is addressed in the theme of the "virus of crime," which Bachmann refers to in her "Introduction" to the text. See Franza, pp. 3-4.

g. Bachmann's novel seeks to examine and discover by literary means (not by scientific means) what the virus of crime is, how it operates, and how it can be controlled. Crime as a virus = a contagion, an illness that begins with a single germ and spreads throughout the entire organism of "culture" and "civilization."

II. Background of the Text

A. Ingeborg Bachmann: Austrian (like Freud and many of the other writers we've studied): born 1926; died 1973, only 47 years old. Died in a fire in her apartment in Rome under mysterious circumstances. Suicide? Accident?

1. Bachmann known primarily for her poetry. She won the literary prize of the Gruppe 47, the most important literary circle in postwar Germany and Austria. The Group represents primarily a literature of resistance to and a diagnosis of the Nazi crimes and what made them possible.

2. Franza was incomplete at her death. It was planned as the third novel in a cycle of novels that Bachmann referred to under the title of Todesarten, "Ways of Dying." Bachmann began working on this cycle of novels in the 1950s; its aim was to portray the varying modes by which women are victimized and "murdered" in civilized society. In 1964 Bachmann took a trip to Egypt and Sudan, where she visited the Suez Canal and the Aswan High Dam. She comes to understand these modern technological accomplishments in a dialectic with such ancient achievements as the pyramids. Walter Benjamin: "There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism." ("Theses on the Philosophy of History") Note the connection to the theme Freud pursues in Civilization and Its Discontents: the accomplishments of civilization and culture are dialectically tied to the mastery of human instinct. Franza was written in 1965-66; in 1966 Bachmann gave four public readings of some of the material from this novel.

3. Title: Der Fall Franza = a) "The Case of Franza" = Franza as a case study, the analytical object of her husband, Dr. Leo Jordan; b) "The Fall of Franza" = story of her death and demise, her victimization by men, culminating in her assault by a man at the Egyptian pyramids. Franza's death is seen from the outside as a "fall" from the pyramid; in fact, however, this "fall" is an act of self-destruction, brought on as a response to her brutalization by others, by "white" men.

4. The pyramids as locale: they were built primarily to glorify men; but Franza's assault at the pyramids represents the dialectic of cultural accomplishment that is dialectically linked to barbarism.

a. This is tied to the motif of Queen Hatshepsut, whose image is eradicated by King Thutmose III (see Franza, pp. 109-110). (For more information on Queen Hatshepsut, click here.)

b. Pyramids also allude to the theme of colonialism, the "white" men who rob the graves. They "colonize" the sacred space of the tombs, impose upon it the ritual of a foreign culture: namely, the rituals of science. The tombs are disturbed for the sake of "knowledge." Note the connection here, as well, to the metaphor of the archaeological dig Freud liked to apply to his own psychoanalytic practices. (See Franza, pp. 107; 120)

5. Franza depicts her suicide/murder at the pyramids, her act of beating her own head against the wall, as a "fall." The title alludes to this "lie," this deception about the real cause of Franza's death. What is actually murder by design (Franza's "programming" to commit suicide) is made to appear as accident and is interpreted as such by the outside world. This "accident" is in fact choreographed and directed by men: by the white male assailant who represents all Franza's other white male victimizers.

6. Intertextuality in Franza:

a. History of Egyptian Queen Hatschepsut
b. Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris
c. Robert Musil's poem "Isis and Osiris"
d. Charles Perrault's fairy tale "Bluebeard" (also adopted by the Brothers Grimm)
e. Witness accounts from the Auschwitz trials; the "Doctors' Trial" (20 doctors accused of human experimentation under Nazi rule)
f. Freud's "Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria ('Dora')"

a. Queen Hatshepsut: Egyptian Queen who ruled for over 20 years.
-- Her successor to the throne, Thutmose III, had her images eradicated in her temple and elsewhere. (p. 109)
-- Theme of burial/memorial, Egyptian mummies.
-- Jordan's eradication of Franza in the credits for his book. (p. 63) Erasure that marks her existence.
-- Theme of colonization, occupation, displacement of women by men, of natives by the whites, of reminiscences by psychoanalysts.

b. Myth of Isis and Osiris: Osiris = Lord of the Afterlife;
-- Brother Set treacherously captures and kills him, places body in a coffin set afloat on the Nile;
-- Wife Isis searches for and finds coffin, hides it for proper burial;
-- Set discovers the coffin and chops Osiris's body into hundreds of parts scattered throughout Egypt;
-- Isis looks for all her husband's parts; she finds them all except one: the phallus!
-- Son Horus seeks to avenge Osiris's death by battling with Set.

c. Robert Musil's poem "Isis and Osiris"
-- Gods are brother and sister;
-- Sister eats her brother's sex organ;
-- Brother and sister eat each others' hearts;
-- Of all hundred brothers this one;
-- Model for interaction between Martin and Franza.

d. Egyptian King Akhenaton (13th Century BC): Akhenaton: Egyptian Pharaoh who introduced monotheism: merged previous gods into one God, Aton, a sun deity. Unity, discipline of "Enlightenment": homogenization, submission of everything to ONE totalizing (totalitarian) principle.
* God Aton spoke only to King Akhenaton;
* Centralization of religious and political power;
* Name Akhenaton means servant of Aton.

Franza identifies bound woman in Cairo as Akhenaton's daughter (p. 131).

Ankhesenpaaten: Akhenaton's daughter by his wife Nefertiti:
* Akhenaton believed to have taken this daughter as one of his sexual partners.
* This underscores Franza's allusion to sexual assault by her father.

Ankhesenpaaten married Tutankhamen (King Tut), who was one of Akhenaton's sons by another wife.
* Franza marries a metaphorical offspring of her father. (p. 22)

e. Fairy Tale of Bluebeard: Bluebeard leaves his house in the charge of his new wife, giving her all the keys, but admonishes her not to enter one room. His wife, incited by curiosity, enters the forbidden room and discovers there the murdered corpses of Bluebeard's previous wives. The key to this room, after its use, is stained with blood that cannot be washed away. Bluebeard returns and discovers his wife has betrayed him by entering the room. She begs forgiveness, but is given only a brief respite. Her brothers have secretly been sent for; the brothers arrive in time to rescue her and kill Bluebeard.
-- Theme of test, experiment with wife;
-- Jordan's previous wives, all of whom have disappeared;
-- Rescue by brothers;
-- Begging forgiveness from torturer;
-- Theme of closet, enclosed space of death, murder.

f. The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials (Doctor's Trials):
-- Auschwitz Trials (Dec. 1963-Aug. 1965)
-- Story of the witness who begs forgiveness for crying;
-- Theme of virus of crime: the idea that the terror of fascism was not wiped out after WWII, but has now infected all human personal relations;
-- Franza's dream about being placed in a gas chamber, in which her husband, Jordan, is the executioner;
-- The story of Dr. Körner, the Viennese doctor living in Cairo who participated in Nazi euthanasia experiments;
-- Franza as experimental object;
-- Franza's symptoms: choking, suffocation.

B. The parade of white males who terrorize and manipulate Franza:

1. Persistent terrorist = Leo Jordan, her husband of 10 years. Franza's brother Martin calls him "The Fossil." He is a famous psychotherapist; his primary personality traits = self-important; "cultured"; speaks with tone of authority; haughty; pedantic; moralistic; slave to honor and glory; egoistic. Note allusion to Charles Perrault's fairy tale of "Bluebeard" = man who entices his wives into a secret chamber by piquing their curiosity and then kills them. In the fairy tale the heroine is rescued by her brothers. (For more information about "Bluebeard," click here.)

a. He represents the terror of analysis; his analytical prowess serves the ends of death; it dissects, makes sterile, unfruitful, etc. (See Franza, p. 46).

b. Dr. Jordan's white lab coat will become the symbol of the other male scientists who oppress Franza and others; = he represents "whiteness" as the power of mastery and violence over others.

c. Franza is Dr. Jordan's third wife. Wife no. 1 became agoraphobic and refused to leave home; wife no. 2 committed suicide by turning on the gas in the apartment; Franza will likewise be driven to suicide.

d. Dr. Jordan torments Franza; she reacts to his torment with love and requests for forgiveness (see p. 66). This is a catch-22: the paradox of the effectiveness of terror and fear = it causes Franza to knuckle under, to adapt herself, conform to the expectations of her terrorist. Like building of Freudian super-ego: Franza internalizes her terrorist.

e. Dr. J. takes joy in humiliating others; he is the embodiment of aggression, evil, self-interest, hatred, loss of control (see pp. 69-70).

2. Franza's father:

a. Franza identifies her father as her primary terrorist (see p. 78), as the "Hitler" of her life. In this configuration Jordan appears simply as the father's henchman, the executor of the father's will. Here Bachmann plays critically on Freudian theory.

b. The white-coated men who victimize Franza are associated with the father, who is described as someone "throwing off his coats, his many coats" (p. 118). The father becomes the archetype of the male victimizer, just as he is the ultimate power and authority figure in Freudian theory. The father as the archetype of the master. Note in this context Franza's "Freudian" slip, her verbal parapraxis and misuse of English: she calls the English Captain "Sire" instead of "Sir."

c. Martin sees the 2 warts on Jordan's face as a mirror of the warts on Franza's father's face. Franza is trapped in a kind of choreographed repetition compulsion, forced to repeat over and over again the ill-treatment she experiences at the hands of her father. (See p. 22)

3. Dr. Körner, another male in a white lab coat. He is a Viennese doctor who conducted experiments on women during the Nazi regime = experiments in euthanasia.

a. Connected to Jordan via Franza's gas-chamber dream (pp. 70; 77); and also by the book Jordan was completing on the subject of Nazi doctors. Franza helped him edit this book (symbolic of her participation in her own subjugation?).

b. Franza goes to Körner to ask him to complete what Jordan (or her father) began): = to kill her, to give her a lethal injection, just as he did to women during the Holocaust. She offers him $300 to do this (note that the money is taken from Martin's wallet!).

4. The doctor who performed Franza's abortion (pp. 93-94). The text implies that she was forced by Jordan into aborting the child. Austria is a Catholic country where abortion was at this time (and still is, according to Church doctrine) strictly taboo.

5. The white man at the pyramid; he assaults Franza with a "stick." Is this a Freudian "phallic" symbol turned against Freudian theory? A critical parody of Freud?

a. He is associated with Jordan, who beat (and presumably raped) Franza in the library of their own home; see pp. 138; 132.

As a consequence of these attacks, Franza beats her own head against a wall, thereby precipitating her own death. The sadism of the male terrorists is transformed into masochism as Franza internalizes their punishment. It takes the form of self-inflicted punishment, because this appears to her as the only way to escape the perennial torture she suffers from men. In Freudian terms, we could interpret this as the formation of an exaggerated and self-brutalizing super-ego.

Jordan's "sickness" becomes Franza's "sickness"!

III. Franza as a critical parody of Freudian case histories, specifically of "Dora"

1. Freud's case history of "Dora" is a narrative that perpetuates the victimization of the patient under the guise of offering her a cure (she only needs to "accept" the good doctor's diagnosis). Freud joins the ranks of Dora's father and Herr K. in constructing Dora as a hysteric, in choreographing her "illness." Just as Freud uses "science" against Dora and transforms her into a representative "case," Leo Jordan transforms Franza into a case study. The analytical object is manipulated into assuming the traits projected onto it.

2. Jordan keeps shorthand notes about Franza; he wants to discover how to "break" her self-confidence, self-awareness, dispel her lust for life, her vitality. He wants to demean her, control her, shape her. See pp. 76-77. This is related to the theme of hieroglyphs and their deciphering.

3. Jordan hated Franza: he "choked" her (literally and figuratively). Note how this repeats the symptoms of Dora's hysteria, her hysterical choking. These are also Franza's symptoms. But Bachmann's "aetiology" of these symptoms is radically different than is Freud's.

a. Jordan makes Franza into a hysteric; he produces her symptoms, her fears. Note how all her fantasies of self-destruction are connected with choking:

1) the gas-chamber dream = death by suffocation;

2) drowning in the river Gaal in Galicien, where she is rescued by a motorcyclist; drowning = choking;

3) the episode when she lets herself be buried alive in the mud of the Nile = choking, coughing.

We can graph Franza's "illness" onto the structure of hysteria as theorized by Freud; her illness, like that of the hysteric, is called a "sickness of the past". For a diagram of Franza's hysteria in the Freudian context, click here.

4. The narrative structure of Franza: replicates the Freudian narrative in which the story of the woman (patient) is told from the perspective of the male (analyst).

a. Desultory, fragmentary character of the narrative: it is haphazard, disjointed, disorganized. It avoids the oppressive logic of the Freudian case history in which each "fact" is made to fit into place.

b. The narrative interweaves past and present, experience and memory, fact and fiction; in this sense it replicates the Freudian pattern we have seen in other literature, but lends it a critical perspective.

c. Franza is structured as a fusion of 2 narrative perspectives: 1) that of Martin, the male who tells his sister's story; 2) that of Franza herself, who tells a story that parallels Martin's account, yet diverges from it in significant respects. This picks up on one of the other intertexts of this novel: the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris and the poem by Robert Musil on this theme in which Isis and Osiris are brother and sister. (For more information on this connection, click here.)

1) Martin's narrative is that of the scientist, the analyst who attempts to discover (to "uncover") and analyze Franza's problem. Martin's narrative about Franza parallels Freud's narrative about Dora. Does he simply continue Franza's terrorism by white males by other means? Martin's story is the source narrative and the framing narrative for all we know about Franza. She is still confined to the male perspective; the narrative itself repeats the limitation under which she suffers.

— We witness this limitation above all in Martin's inability to read the shorthand note, written by Jordan, which Martin finds in Franza and Martin's apartment (see p. 17). He can't decipher, can't read this note. This is representative of his incapacity to discover the truth of Jordan's terrorization of Franza. It is tied to the theme of hieroglyphs and their decipherment, which is mentioned early in the text (p. 7).

— Franza as "Queen Hatshepsut" (pp. 109-110): Queen H. is marked by her absence, by her erasure at the hands of a male. Similarly, Franza is "erased" by Jordan (pp. 63-64): in the credits for his book there is no mention of Franza, despite the fact that she has provided him with significant editorial assistance.

2) Bachmann's narrative is structured as a counterpoint between Martin's narrative and that provided by Franza herself. This narrative reveals the "truth" of her victimization, of her "fall". It also serves as a counter-narrative that points up the limitations of Martin's male, "scientific" perspective.

Bachmann's novel is like the temple to Queen Hatshepsut: Franza is "erased" from its texture, but her place is marked by this very act of erasure, by her eradication.
Martin Heidegger (1889-1976): putting something under erasure = negating its presence; but this negation marks the very presence it is supposed to eliminate.
-- Franza is put under erasure by Jordan's attempt to eradicate her: but at the same time her presence is MARKED AND MEMORIALIZED by this act of erasure.
-- Franza is like Queen Hatshepsut. Both she and Franza are present through this act of erasure.
-- Pyramids and dialectic of burial and memorial: this dialectic manifest in the act of erasure to which Franza and Queen Hatshepsut are subjected.

– The narrative structure in which Martin relates the story of his sister both replicates the analytical situation of psychoanalysis and the theme of solidarity between brother and sister as modelled in the Osiris and Isis myth. Does this present a utopian perspective that potentially escapes the oppression of evil as manifest in Franza's relationship with other male figures?

IV. Conclusions:

A. Bachmann's text asks the question: Why are people eradicated, erased? What motivates their erasure? Why are women dominated by men, why are some classes dominated by others, some races colonized by others, some civilizations subject to subordination by other civilizations (the Egypt of the "classical" period to modern Western science)?

B. In the novel, Franza is erased, but the book bears her name and by holding a place for her name it bears witness to her fate.

C. The novel represents a literary investigation into the same problems and issues Freud treats scientifically in his psychoanalytic writings. Literature, literary narrative, is presented as an alternative to the narrative of science, the narratives constructed by science; an alternative to rational analysis.

D. The pages of the book, and we as readers, pass though the "tunnel" of the psyche (see p. 9), the fantasy, the darkness of the literary imagination: we emerge with words, with a language that defies the master-slave dialectic of analytical and scientific discourse. Literary language as a utopia of coercion-free communication and interpersonal relations.

E. We as readers must "reconstruct" the victim's story, just as in the myth of Isis and Osiris Isis must reconstruct her husband's body.