Sohini Dasgupta studies German Literature at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi (India). In February, she attended the univie: winter school for Cultural Historical Studies online. In this blog post, she tells us about her experiences while successfully completing the course on “Psychoanalysis and Literature in Sigmund Freud’s Vienna”.
Rowling in Harry Potter mentions that “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” The Winter School in Vienna was such a light for me. Being locked down at home for months due to the pandemic posed difficult times and a challenge to sanity. 2020 was a slow year for academia. Scholarships got delayed or cancelled. Amidst this uncertainty, the online univie: winter school was a tremendous success. It enabled me to go for my dream specialization in the middle of this hopelessness. As a result of unfortunate travel restrictions, the Winter School structured courses for distance learning.
Freud and me
When I was in school, I read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams from our family library. My mother introduced me to his theories of id, ego, and superego. I do not know how deeply I could perceive Freud’s writing back then, but he had always left a world of fascination and curiosity within me. Later, as a student of German Literature, I listened to discussions around Freudian themes in Literature. This triggered my interest in the Winter School in Vienna. Coming from a humble background, affordability was an issue. To my surprise, I was offered a full scholarship.
The joy of returning to what fascinated me as an adolescent played a significant role. The program was developed remarkably and presented in an excellent way. During the introductory seminar, Karl Vocelka introduced us to the socio-historical context of modernity in Vienna.
In the course “Psychoanalysis and Literature in Sigmund Freud’s Vienna” psychoanalyst and professor Eveline List introduced us to the different theories of psychoanalysis. Johann Lughofer covered the relation between the theories of psychoanalysis and its reflection on literature. He introduced us to Schnitzler’s novella The Dream Story and we discussed the modern adaptation and reception of the novella in the American film Eyes Wide Shut, which led to the discussion about intercultural interactions.
Studying under such excellent, committed teachers is a treasure for students. Tuition and study materials were included. The organizers also arranged different virtual get-togethers. This helped me to connect with the professors and colleagues who opened my views to different ways of living and thinking. I enjoyed the virtual carnival that we celebrated online. As a reader of Nietzsche, I wanted to understand and take part in carnivals. Of course, experiencing Fasching in Vienna would be great. Still, I used the occasion of the online Fasching to dress up as cogito ergo sum or “I think, therefore I am”.
The unrest and the xenophobia reflected in Indian masses have affected my country’s stability, creating a divided society. Stories of violence are rampant. Therefore, I used the opportunity during a get-together to share the story of our struggles with the global community. It was a personal moment for me when everyone at the Winter School responded with solidarity.
Winter School in my life
The Winter School was a crucial milestone in my life. With the help of my teachers, I have gathered a lot of information. Using the different tools of psychoanalysis to understand the human non-human relationship, I wrote a research paper on the topic “The Nature of Man or the Man of Nature? An Eco-critical Reading of Kafka.”, which I presented at the International Webinar on ‘Eco-Critical Perspective in Literature – Indo-German Dimensions’, organized by the University of Kerala, India. At the moment, the article is under review for the journal German Studies India. In addition, I wish to extend my MA dissertation on this very topic.
To see Gustav Klimt’s painting at the Leopold Museum or to experience the Sigmund Freud Museum, or even a casual gathering at the coffeehouse would be a great thrill. However, even with all this not being possible, I truly had an exciting experience I can cherish. I long to meet all my peers and teachers in my dream destination Vienna someday in Covid-free times. Surely, being in Vienna while studying and understanding Viennese modernity would be an even better experience.