This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to explore the reciprocal exchange among representations of hypnotic and corporate agency in cultural production around the turn of the twentieth century and well into the years following World War I. By analyzing representations of hypnotic crimes and corporate bodies in European cinema, literature, and science from the 1880s to the 1930s, the following chapters thus investigate a set of cultural fantasies surprisingly similar to our own. Today, modern media are perceived as surreptitiously influencing and manipulating their audiences. Simultaneously, globalization and the rise of multinational corporations create a fear of opaque corporate structures, which seemingly absorb human persons. At the turn of the last century, comparable anxieties about being controlled by a hidden force pervaded the domains of science, fiction, and film. Focusing on a previously neglected dimension of European cultural history, this study therefore inserts the ostensibly remote notion of “possession” into the analysis of Western modernity as it emerged around 1900. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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