RG 1120: Sexual Modernism and Madness. The Figure of the (Meaningful) Madwoman in Berlin Urban Bohème 1890-1933


The project researches the connection between the ‘Discovery of Sexuality’ as a scholarly and social field and a historically specific psychopathologization of femininity. In hegemonic discourses on modernism, femininity is allegorized and sexualized in exaggerated motifs such as illness, demonization (fin de siècle), prostitution (Expressionism, Dada) and amorality (New Objectivity). The extensive existing research on the structural misogyny inherent in the self-image of the epoch will be contrasted with an exploration of the social and textual practices of female actors that undermines the latter notion. Our point of departure is the claim that a female ‘Sexual Modernism’ led by radical feminists, sexual reformers, authors and artists, until now not conceptualized as a discursive formation, experiments with a “New Sexual Ethic” and was thus declared ‘crazy’. This “meaningful” madness, acted out performatively in the emergent space of an urban bohème, is to be read as a critique of norms and explored to better understand how the ‘madness’ label was ironically engaged, resignified and made productive in a dissident way.


Principal Investigators
Binder, Beate Prof. Dr. (Details) (Gender Studies and European Ethnology)

Duration of Project
Start date: 02/2009
End date: 12/2013

Research Areas
Modern and Current History, Social and Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology

Last updated on 2021-03-08 at 15:08