The Austrian writer Robert Musil (1880-1942) never lived to complete his multi-volume Modernist masterpiece The Man Without Qualities. Conceived of as an ironic epitaph to the culture of Mitteleuropa that slid blindly into the catastrophe of the First World War, the novel–and its author–became embroiled in the dark upheavals that would lead to another suicidal conflict on the European continent. Is it any wonder, then, that The Man Without Qualities should break just about every law of narrative order? We will read Musil’s early novel The Confusions of Young Törless, Volume One of The Man Without Qualities (along with selections from the later volumes), and many of the other Austrian writers who helped make the literary culture of Musil’s time and place so singular (including Sigmund Freud, Hermann Broch, Karl Kraus, Jakob Wassermann). We will also devote time to the art and architecture of the Vienna Secession and the works of the Wiener Werkstätte.
Corequisite: All students in this course are required to attend Wednesday evening literature events.