Eros and Thanatos: A psycho-literary investigation of Walter Vogt's life and works

Date of Completion

January 2003


Biography|Literature, Germanic




The Swiss author Walter Vogt was a medical doctor and a practicing psychiatrist. The approach applied to the investigation of his life and works is determined by the fact that the author of this dissertation is also a medical doctor and a psychiatrist. Vogt is not only a colleague of his, then, with an abundant literary productivity, but can also be viewed as a patient haunted by a multitude of psychological and somatic problems. ^ Vogt's works are distinguished by an unusually close interrelationship between his real-life experience and the fictional world of his narrative prose. Certain conclusions will therefore be reached based not only on the literary texts but also on the psychological evidence derived from conversations and correspondence with professional colleagues and members of Vogt's family. ^ The dissertation initially presents the major problems experienced and transferred into art by Walter Vogt. These problems are related to his medical profession as well as to his personal drug addiction.^ The succeeding basis for discussion is Vogt's astounding productivity after he had almost destroyed himself by his addictive use of drugs, then freeing himself from addiction. Dealing with his works requires an ongoing alternation between the fiction of the stories and the facts of psychiatric case histories. ^ To fully understand Vogt's works, his physical illnesses and sexual issues as well as his attempts to become an acclaimed literary success must be analyzed. His self-destructive behavior is presented in the overall context of his psychological problems. Vogt was vacillating between eros, the sum of self-preservation, and thanatos, the instinct to self-destruct. An assumption that Vogt was schizophrenic, however, is not justifiable, based on the medical evidence. ^ In the baffling world of competing inner forces, we find that Vogt, as a psychiatric doctor, failed to treat himself as he would have treated his own patients. The sole means by which a disintegration of Vogt's psyche was averted was his writing, which absorbed the destructive elements in his personal life. ^