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PossessedHypnotic Crimes, Corporate Fiction, and the Invention of Cinema$
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Stefan Andriopoulos

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226020549

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226020570.001.0001

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Tales of Hypnotic Crime

Tales of Hypnotic Crime

(p.19) I Tales of Hypnotic Crime

Stefan Andriopoulos

University of Chicago Press

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

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