PossessedHypnotic Crimes, Corporate Fiction, and the Invention of Cinema

PossessedHypnotic Crimes, Corporate Fiction, and the Invention of Cinema

Stefan Andriopoulos

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226020549

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

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. This book 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—the author 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 such as 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, the author also develops an innovative reading of Kafka's novels, which center on the merging of human and corporate bodies.