In Search of Lost Experience: Hermann Broch, Robert Musil, and the Novels of Interwar Vienna Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Lambert, Richard
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies
  • ABSTRACT Richard M. Lambert III: In Search of Lost Experience: Hermann Broch, Robert Musil, and the Novels of Interwar Vienna (Under the direction of Dr. Richard Langston) Characterized by themes of negation, fragmentation, and destruction, the novels of interwar Vienna are canonically read as a testament to the social and political shifts that reshaped Central Europe after the turn of the twentieth century—the upheaval of the fin-de-siècle, the devastation of WWI, and the fall of the monarchies. These canonical readings deny the modernist novel any sort of productive capacity. My dissertation, In Search of Lost Experience: Hermann Broch, Robert Musil, and the Novels of Interwar Vienna delivers a corrective to conventional understandings of the late modernist novel by pushing beyond this lament of crisis. In the Viennese interwar novels of Hermann Broch and Robert Musil, I locate a deeper agenda in the late modernist novel—the resuscitation of experience—which evidences the pinnacle of another Viennese modernism located around 1930. My dissertation examines the Musil’s Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß (1906) and Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (1930/32) and Broch’s Die Schlafwandler (1930) and Die unbekannte Größe (1932). I read these novels together with theories from philosophy, psychology, and science studies that range from Kant to Dilthey, Lukacs, Mach, Freud, Neurath, and Wittgenstein in order to investigate literature’s unique purchase on experience by reawakening language as use, production, non-semiotic communication, and literary experimentation. This alternative to the standard accounts of modernism contrasts against the celebrated Viennese fin-de-siècle, and frees interwar Viennese literature from the pneumatic literary-historical narrative of crisis that has defined scholarship on twentieth century Austrian literature since Claudio Magris (1966) and Carl Schorske (1980), which frame Viennese interwar literature as backward-looking reactions to the political, social, and linguistic crises of the pre-WWI era. My dissertation instead asserts that the search for experience designates these novels as productive sites of aesthetic and cultural orientation during the interwar period.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Gellen, Kata
  • Pollmann, Inga
  • Hacohen, Malachi
  • Langston, Richard
  • Downing, Eric
  • Moi, Toril
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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