von Amsteln Gastwirt (1847-1914)
Profile by E.W.
Another in our occasional series of profiles of leading theorists
by our frequent contributors.
German-Dutch theorist and pre-Freudian psychologist Wilhelm von Amsteln
Gastwirt is responsible for the anal-declention theory of
personality development. Under anal-declention, there are two basic
personality types: the smertz and the anti-smertz -- or
those who have moved past the stage of anal-declention and those who
have not. Vital to Gastwirts theory is that toilet training an
infant is not merely traumatizing to that infant, but, if uncorrected
later in life, can lead to dogmatism, narrow mindedness and hemorrhoidal
In his psycho-sociological masterwork The Clenched and the Damned,
Gastwirt demonstrates the double-bind those who have colonic attitudes
he felt were healthy (anti-smertz) faced in the Victorian age:
[it is] the problem of him that is free to be the exemplar of
the unclenched bowel that, once he has achieved this state, he becomes
a social pariah, not the least because of his newfound natural smell.
And so he is fulfilled because of his declenched bowel, but can never
be fulfilled because he is friendless (404).
Gastwirts theories, aside from being obviously influential, are
also the basis for contemporary declention theory, also known in some
circles as neo-Gastwirtianism, a critical standpoint from which characters
are judged by the perceived state of their sphincters. Larger ramifications
about proper movement and open or loose
images in literature have been explored by such noted contemporaries
as the self-described arch-feminist Fanny Hertz, the moral social critic
P.B. Wombat, post-Freudian Jacques Lickin, and, of course, queer-theorist
Archibald Ramstien and others.
Gastwirt himself began to explore the extension of his theories into
literature (see the authors forthcoming `No Ifs, Ands, Or
. . .: Wilhelm von Amsteln Gastwirts Theories of Faust.),
but by the end of his career was heavily ensconced in a cosmological
exploration based on his earlier work: [the] ultimate opening
up, and the evolutionary goals of the theory so modestly squeezed out
in this slim volume are none other than a `Cosmological-Longitudinal,
or CoLon, theory that would be, to say the least, all-encompassing
Gastwirt was never able to finish the CoLon theory (though
preliminary assays remain extant) as his work and life were cut short
by an unfortunate accident with a bidet in a New York hotel in late
1914. Freud is rumored to have said of him at the time that he was the
greatest theorist Ive ever put out a cigar on, though the
meaning of this statement remains unclear.
Gastwirt, Wilhem von Amsteln. The Clenched and the