Cloth $46.00 ISBN: 9780226748672 Published July 2000

Otto Weininger

Sex, Science, and Self in Imperial Vienna

Chandak Sengoopta

Otto Weininger

Chandak Sengoopta

256 pages | 1 halftone | 6 x 9 | © 2000
Cloth $46.00 ISBN: 9780226748672 Published July 2000
Turn-of-the century Vienna is remembered as an aesthetic, erotic, and intellectual world: the birthplace of Freud and psychoanalysis, the waltz, and novels of Schnitzler. The contexts of this cultural vibrancy, Chandak Sengoopta argues, were darker and more complex than we might imagine.

This provocative, enlightening study explores the milieu in which the philosopher Otto Weininger (1880-1903) wrote his controversial book Sex and Character. Shortly after its publication, Weininger committed suicide at the age of twenty-three. His book, which argued that women and Jews were mere sexual beings who lacked individuality, became a bestseller.

Hailed as a genius by intellectuals such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Kraus, Weininger was admired, not for his prejudices, but for his engagement with the central issues of the time—the nature and meanings of identity. Sengoopta pays particular attention to how Weininger appropriated scientific language and data to defend his views and examines the scientific theories themselves.
Introduction: Why Read Otto Weininger Today? And How?
1. The Education of Otto Weininger
2. Weininger's Worlds: Identity, Politics, and Philosophy in Central Europe
3. Man, Woman, Text: The Structure and Substance of Geschlecht und Charakter
4. The Biology of Sex and the Deconstruction of Gender
5. Normalizing the Homosexual
6. Deconstructing Femininity: The Psychology of Hysteria
7. Impregnation and Autonomy: The Political Physiology of Motherhood
8. Echoes, Analyses, Critiques: Responses to Weininger
Selected Bibliography
Review Quotes
S.A.M. Burns | Annals of Science
“Sengoopta presents a learned, modest and sensible account of Weininger’s major work. . . . It is a major contribution to the literature on this extraordinary icon of early twentieth-century Vienna.”
David S. Luft | Central European History
“[This] study contributes to our understanding of Weininger by locating him more precisely in the context of late nineteenth-century medicine and biology. Sengoopta clarifies the historical standard—especially scientific, but also moral—against which to read Weininger, and he makes this peculiar writer comprehensible by providing a realistic sense of his scientific frame of reference.”
Andreas Killen | German-Studies Review
“[Sengoopta] takes Weininger’s scientific interests seriously, and in a series of finely crafted readings locates Weininger’s concerns within a constellation of fields ranging from experimental psychology to research on sex glands, and the study of homosexuality.”
Volker Depkat | H-Net Reviews
“Sengoopta, in his highly informative study, convincingly shows that <I>Geschlecht und Charakter<I> is a ‘serious, comprehensive, and emotionally charged ideological critique of modernity in general and of women’s emancipation in particular.’”
Hannah S. Decker | ISIS
“Sengoopta has done something I would have considered impossible: he convinced me, by tracing the roots of Weininger’s thought, that it was worthwhile to read his book about a man I had considered unworthy of serious study. . . . I would hazard the conclusion that, despite his rabidness, Weininger articulated some main currents of thought . . . and that his work is relevant today as a jumping off point for explorations of issues that still concern us.”
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