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Dr. Jenny Willner

Summer Semester 2018

Jenny Willner – PortraitJenny Willner is assistant professor of Comparative Literature at LMU Munich. She holds a Master's degree in German literature and philosophy and received her PhD in comparative literature at the Peter Szondi-Institute, FU Berlin, in 2012. Her first book, "Wortgewalt. Peter Weiss und die deutsche Sprache", was published in 2014.

Photo: Helena Heilig

Currently, she is working on her second book (Habilitation) "Neurosis and Evolution. Developmentary Narratives Between Psychoanalysis, Biology, and Literature". The book-length study reconstructs the fragments of a psychoanalytical counter-narrative to the politically highly influential monist understanding of evolution, as represented by Ernst Haeckel and Wilhelm Bölsche. As if to undermine the entire notion of teleology and progressive optimism, both Freud and the Hungarian psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi tend to think of evolution as driven by a structurally neurotic dynamic, that is, by the tension between regressive drives and defense mechanisms. While Freud's hypothetical digressions about protozoans and primitive marine organisms may mislead the reader into the conclusion that psychoanalytic theory here withdraws entirely from the realm of language and the social, this study claims the opposite: during and after World War I, against the backdrop of eugenics and biopolitics, Freud's and Ferenczi's theoretical fiction about the origin of life implicates a radical resignification of the entire notion of development.

As a Junior Researcher in Residence at CAS, Jenny Willner will focus on "bioanalysis", a term coined by Ferenczi during the most intense phase of his cooperation with Freud. The interdisciplinary workshop on Sándor Ferenczi will discuss Ferenczi’s relevance for literary and cultural studies from a broader perspective.

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