Sade/Masoch: Literature of Domination and Submission

Comparative Literature V3310 3.0 points, Fall 2002

Prof. David Goldfarb

TTh 2:40-3:55, 237 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 by Sade, Sacher-Masoch, and Samuel R. Delany. 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, Roy Baumeister, John Money, Robert Stolerow, Paula J. Caplan, and Lynda Hart.

3 Sept.—Introduction.

5 Sept.—Robert Darnton, The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (ch. 1-6). [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.].

10 Sept.—Thérèse Philosophe (Darnton, 249-99).

12 Sept.—Marquis de Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom. [Recommended: Maurice Blanchot, “Sade” included in our edition. Roland Barthes, Sade-Fourier-Loyola. Tr. Richard Miller. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U. Pr., 1976. Jane Gallop, Thinking Through the Body. New York: Columbia U. Pr., 1988.]

17 Sept.—Sade (cont’d). [Recommended: Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, “Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality,” Dialectic of Enlightenment, New York: Continuum (1995), 81-119.]

24 Sept.—Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs.

26 Sept.—Sacher-Masoch (cont’d). Michael C. Finke, “Sacher-Masoch, Turgenev, and Other Russians.”

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

8 Oct.—Kant (cont’d).

10 Oct.—Sacher-Masoch, Kant.

15 Oct.—Sade and Masoch (cont’d). [Optional: “Jacques Lacan, “Kant avec Sade,” from Ecrits 2:119-48--a partial translation exists at Slavoj Zizek, “Kant and Sade: The ideal Couple,” lacanian ink 13 (1998), 12-25, available at]. SHORT PAPER DUE.

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

22 Oct.—Krafft-Ebing and Freud (cont’d).

24 Oct.—Medical models and contemporary psychological approaches: Readings from Theodor Reik, Roy Baumeister, John Money, Robert Stolorow, Richard L. Solomon, and Otto Kernberg. [Optional: For an example of how these kinds of analytic theories might be applied to a literary work, see].

29 Oct.—(cont’d).

31 Oct.—Gilles Deleuze, “Coldness and Cruelty”

5 Nov.—Classes cancelled for Election Day.

7 Nov.—(cont’d)

12 Nov.—Diary of Wanda von Sacher-Masoch.

-14 Nov.—Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love (selections). Lynda Hart, Between the Body and the Flesh: Performing Sadomasochism (selections).

19 Nov.—Samuel R. Delany, The Mad Man.

21 Nov.—Delany (cont’d), and his article, “Street Talk/Straight Talk,” differences: A journal of feminist cultural studies 3:2 (1991), 21-38.

26 Nov.—Delany (cont’d).

28 Nov.—Thanksgiving Break

3 Dec.—Film Screening: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom. This will be an extended class, location TBA. If you cannot stay for the whole film, you should watch it earlier in the semester. It is available in the Film and Video collection at Butler Library. They may also have it on DVD at Kim’s Video. The Movie Place on 105th St. and Broadway has it in their catalogue on video, but it is broken an unavailable. PROPOSALS DUE.

5 Dec.—Pasolini, discussion. If available, read the volume by Gary Indiana on the film.

9 Dec.—Conclusions, assessments, discussion of final paper topics.


Grades will be weighted as follows:

 Participation    15%
 Short Paper      25%
 Proposal         10%
 Final Paper      50%


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. While some of the readings may seem short, many of them are also particularly dense, so be sure to leave yourself sufficient time to look up unfamiliar words, concepts, and references and to unpack often knotty prose. You are advised to begin assembling any reserve readings early in the term, to avoid the rush as they come up for discussion. If you think you may be interested in writing about one of the texts on the schedule after the proposal comes due, read ahead and we can discuss the material during office hours.

Detailed assignment sheets will be provided in class for the papers:

SHORT PAPER—Students will write a 5-page paper on either Philosophy in the Bedroom or Venus in Furs, interpreting the chosen work through a careful reading of one scene or of a repeated motif. The Short Paper is due 15 October 2002.

FINAL PAPER—Students will write term paper of about 10 pages on a topic that covers at least one literary work and one psychological, theoretical or philosophical text considered in the course, and one other work which may or may not be from outside the reading list. Students should turn in a written proposal of 1-2 pages for the final paper including a working thesis, list of texts under consideration, and a sketch of the argument. The proposal is due 3 December 2002, but you are encouraged to turn it in earlier, as soon as you have a topic. The final paper is due 13 December 2002.

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.


This portion of your grade includes your productive oral participation in class, attendance, the extent to which your written assignments reflect that you are listening actively in class, and the improvement in your work over the course of the semester. Students enroll in the class with varying degrees of preparation. Even if you enter the class with a strong background in the subject, you must demonstrate that you are learning something from this class in order to do well in it. If you are studying the subject for the first time, do not fear that you will forever be lagging behind the more advanced students. Hard work will be rewarded!

You are strongly encouraged to discuss your papers, as well as all of the assignments, with me at my office hours or in e-mail. There will be no opportunities for extra credit, but if you would like to improve your performance on the written assignments, I will always accept drafts in advance, to be returned ungraded with comments and suggestions. Most students who turn in drafts and take the suggestions seriously learn a good deal about writing and improve their assignments by one-half to a full grade. If you would like feedback on your final paper before handing in the final draft, I will accept drafts for comment up to two class meetings before the paper is due. The final paper is due in my office 13 December 2002.

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