'Von satanischem Geschlecht': Gender and the Simulacrum at the Fin de Siècle

'Von satanischem Geschlecht': Gender and the Simulacrum at the Fin de Siècle
12 April 2018, 6.00pm - 7.30pm
Room 243, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Speaker: Francesca Roe (University of Bristol)

This paper traces the gendered association of the simulacrum with a supposedly puppet-like femininity in the period 1890-1918, arguing that the contemporary fascination with the artificial body cannot be analysed independently of fraught debates around gender identity. It will begin by establishing the symbolic representation of woman as a hollow ‘puppet’ in the work of fin-de-siècle medical scientists and philosophers such as Weininger, Nordau, and Jean-Michel Charcot, before considering the practical impact of these theories upon art and literature with specific reference to the work of Arthur Schnitzler, Richard Teschner, Hermine Moos, and Lotte Pritzel. It will also consider the challenges posed to misogynistic depictions of ‘woman as puppet’ by female doll- and puppet-makers and progressive critics such as Wilhelm Michel, for whom the idea of a hollow, puppet-like femininity was positively re-interpreted as a fashionable symbol of ‘feminine’ aestheticism. Ultimately, it will be argued that the seemingly outlandish fin-de-siècle conflation of femininity and artifice remains relevant to this day, informing contemporary debates around the uncanny effects of female sex dolls, and re-emerging in modern anti-feminist representations of women as fickle and deceptive ‘puppets’ lacking ‘masculine’ depth and integrity.


Jane Lewin
020 7862 8966