Sade/Masoch: Literature, Theory, and History

Comparative Literature--Slavic, G6120, 3.0 points, Fall 2004

Prof. David Goldfarb

Time/location: Tuesday 4:10-6:00 p.m., 227 Milbank

Before the names of the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch became synonyms for sexual psychopathology, their works functioned as part of a discourse of political freedom and slavery in which philosophy and sexually explicit narrative frequently overlapped. This course will attempt to recover the pre-psychoanalytic context of these works, in light of that reconstruction to reassess the major currents in the psychological theory of sado-masochism, and to consider literary works written in the tradition of Sade and Sacher-Masoch in the wake of psychoanalytic theory. The texts will raise questions of gender and power, psychology and politics, the theory of the Sublime, narration and staging, nationalism, race, sexual identity, and socio-economic class.

Primary readings will include novels and stories by Sade, Sacher-Masoch, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Stanisl*aw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Samuel R. Delany and possibly others. Frameworks for interpretation will be developed from works by Immanuel Kant, Robert Darnton, Wanda von Sacher-Masoch, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Sigmund Freud, Gilles Deleuze, Jessica Benjamin, Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zizek, Roy Baumeister, John Money, Robert Stolerow, Paula J. Caplan, Lynda Hart, and others.

7 Sept.—Introduction.

14 Sept.—Liberty and Libertinism: Robert Darnton, The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (ch. 1-6). Thérèse Philosophe (Darnton, 249-99). With some reference to Diderot on painting, Fragonard, Boucher, and Mozart. [Recommended: Visit “The Progress of Love” in the Fragonard room at The Frick Collection. Also look at Boucher’s “The Four Seasons” in the adjacent hall. Listen to the Rondo from Mozart’s Horn Concerto in D, K. 412.].

21, 28 Sept.—Marquis de Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom. Maurice Blanchot, “Sade.” Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, “Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality,” Dialectic of Enlightenment, New York: Continuum (1995), 81-119. [Recommended, particularly in connection with the Gallop text toward the end of semester: Roland Barthes, Sade-Fourier-Loyola. Tr. Richard Miller. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U. Pr., 1976.]

5 Oct.—Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs.

12 Oct.—Sacher-Masoch avec Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, First Part, “Critique of Aesthetic Judgement” (1-246).

19 Oct.—Jacques Lacan, “Kant avec Sade,” from Ecrits 2:119-48 [a partial translation exists at >]; Ermanno Bencivenga, “Kant’s Sadism,” Philosophy and Literature 20:1 (1996), 39-46 []; Slavoj Z*iz*ek, “Kant and Sade: The ideal Couple,” lacanian ink 13 (1998), 12-25 [].

26 Oct.—Sacher-Masoch in his Slavic Context: Fantasies of Catherine the Great, Masoch’s superfluous men, Jews, Poles, and Galician Peasants. Selected stories including “Diderot in Petersburg” and others and selected readings from Dostoevsky and Bruno Schulz. Michael C. Finke, “Sacher-Masoch, Turgenev, and Other Russians,” One Hundred Years of Masochism: Literary Texts, Social and Cultural Contexts, ed. Michael C. Finke and Carl Niekerk, Psychoanalysis and Culture 10 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000), 119-37.

2 Nov.—Election Day--no classes

9 Nov.—Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis (selections); Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle and “The Economic Problem in Masochism.”

16 Nov.—Medical Models: Readings from Otto Kernberg, Theodor Reik, Roy Baumeister, John Money, Robert Stolorow, and Richard L. Solomon and selections from a novel by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Insatiability. See also

23 Nov.—Gilles Deleuze, “Coldness and Cruelty.”

25-28 Nov.—Thanksgiving holidays.

30 Nov.—Feminism: Diary of Wanda von Sacher-Masoch-. Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love (selections). Jane Gallop, Thinking Through the Body (selections). Lynda Hart, Between the Body and the Flesh: Performing Sadomasochism (selections).

7 Dec.—Masochism in the age of AIDS: Samuel R. Delany, The Mad Man. Delany, “Street Talk/Straight Talk,” differences: A journal of feminist cultural studies 3:2 (1991), 21-38. Conclusions and discussion.


Grades will be weighted as follows:

 Participation     15%
 Oral Presentation 25%
 Final Paper       60%


READING—The readings above are listed as they will be discussed in class and should be read in advance of the day they we will cover them. You are advised to assemble the reserve readings early in the term, to avoid the rush as they come up for discussion. Depending on the interests of the group, we may decide on some substitutions as the semester progresses.

ASSIGNMENTS—Students will present a 20-minute paper in the seminar, such as one might present at a conference, to be handed in in written form, then developed into a longer version to be turned in as the term paper. Topics will be arranged by individual consultation. The term paper is due 16 December 2004.

Computer problems are no excuse for late assignments. Extensions will be granted for delays due to computer failure, only if you can produce a backup or printout containing at least 80% of the assignment.

PARTICIPATION—This portion of the grade includes productive oral participation, attendance, the extent to which written assignments reflect the discourse of the seminar, improvement in work over the course of the semester, intrepidness in research, and intellectual generosity in contribution to the seminar.

Required Texts available at Labyrinth Books

Darnton, Robert. The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France. New York: Norton, 1996.

Delany, Samuel R. The Mad Man. Rutherford, N.J.: Voyant Publishing, 2002.

Deleuze, Gilles and Sacher-Masoch, Leopold von. Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty, Venus in Furs. Tr. Jean McNeil. New York: Zone, 1991.

Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Tr. and Ed. James Strachey. Intro. by Gregory Zilboorg. Biographical intro. by Peter Gay. New York: Norton, 1989.

Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Judgement. Tr. James Creed Meredith. Oxford: Clarendon, 1952.

Sacher-Masoch, Wanda. The Confessions of Wanda von Sacher-Masoch. Tr. Marian Phillips, Caroline Hébert, and V. Vale. San Francisco: Re/Search Publications, 1990.

Sade, Marquis de. Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings. Tr. Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, with an introduction by Jean Paulhan and Maurice Blanchot. New York: Grove/Evergreen, 1990.

Optional Text

Sacher-Masoch, Leopold von. Venus in Furs. Trans. Joachim Neugroschel. New York: Penguin, 2000. This translation is better than the one included in the Deleuze/Masoch volume, and I recommend the introduction. If you would like to find it in German, there is an Austrian edition easily obtained from IBIS Book Service at

Material that will be available in photocopy

Baumeister, Roy F. Masochism and the Self. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1989. Ch. 4-5.

Benjamin, Jessica. The Bonds of Love. New York: Pantheon, 1988. Intro, ch. 2.

Delany, Samuel R. “Street Talk/Straight Talk.” differences: A journal of feminist cultural studies 3:2 (1991), 21-38.

Finke, Michael C. “Sacher-Masoch, Turgenev, and Other Russians.” One Hundred Years of Masochism: Literary Texts, Social and Cultural Contexts. Ed. Michael C. Finke and Carl Niekerk. Psychoanalysis and Culture 10. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000. 119-37.

Freud, Sigmund. “The Economic Problem of Masochism.” 1924. General Psychological Theory. Ed. Philip Rieff. New York: Collier, 1963. 185-89.

Gallop, Jane. Thinking Through the Body. Gender and Culture. Ed. Carolyn G. Heilbrun and Nancy K. Miller. New York: Columbia U. Pr., 1988. 1-20, 41-54.

Hart, Lynda. Between the Body and the Flesh: Performing Sadomasochism. New York: Columbia U. Pr., 1998. 1-9, 36-82.

Horkheimer, Max and Adorno, Theodor. “Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality.” Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Continuum, 1995. 81-119.

Kernberg, Otto F. “Clinical Dimensions of Masochism.” In One Hundred Years of Masochism: Literary Texts, Social and Cultural Contexts. Ed. Michael C. Finke and Carl Niekerk. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000. 15-32. Also available in Masochism: Current Psychoanalytic Perspectives. Ed. Robert A. Glick and Donald I. Meyers. Hillsdale, N.J.: The Analytic Press, 1988. 61-79.

Krafft-Ebing, Richard von. Psychopathia Sexualis: With Especial Reference to the Antipathic Sexual Instinct, A Medico-Forensic Study. Tr. Franklin S. Klaf. Intro. by Joseph LoPiccolo. Foreword by Daniel Blain. New York: Arcade, 1998. 1-27, 46-186.

Lacan, Jacques. “Kant avec Sade.” from Ecrits 2:119-48.

Money, John. “Masochism: On the Childhood Origin of Paraphilia, Opponent-process theory, and Antiandrogen Therapy.” Journal of Sex Research 23.2 (May 1987), 273-75.

Reik, Theodor. Masochism in Sex and Society (Originally Published as “Masochism in Modern Man”. New York: Pyramid, 1941. 45-98.

Solomon, Richard L. “The Opponent-Process Theory of Acquired Motivation: The Costs of Pleasure and the Benefits of Pain.” American Psychologist 35:8 (Aug. 1980), 691-712.

Stolorow, Robert D. “The Narcissistic Function of Masochism (and Sadism).” International J. of Psycho-Analysis 56 (1975), 441-48.

Required books on this list have been ordered by Labyrinth Books. Take note of materials available on the internet in the schedule of readings above. Copies of articles and shorter texts on the syllabus will be made available. The Roland Barthes text is not required, but highly recommended. You should be able to find it easily at Labyrinth, St. Mark’s Books, and the other usual sources. If you can read the translated texts in the original, you are welcome and encouraged to do so, but you may still wish to acquire the assigned texts for the purpose of following along in class. Even if you have read some of the works already in another version, it is wise to acquire the assigned texts for the same reason.


25 September 2005