Reality and Dreams: Robert Musil and the Vienna Secession (LIT4148.01)

Benjamin Anastas

The Austrian writer Robert Musil (1880-1942) never lived to complete his multi-volume Modernist masterpiece The Man Without Qualities. Written obsessively over more than twenty years and conceived of as an ironic epitaph to the culture of Mitteleuropa that had 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 yet another suicidal conflict on the European continent just a few decades later. Is it any wonder, then, that The Man Without Qualities should break just about every law of narrative order? That it’s obsession with sex, death, decline, and taboo; statehood and statelessness; mysticism and ever-more precise measures of so-called objective reality, make this ‘novel of ideas’ from almost one-hundred years ago shimmer with a force that still feels new? We’ll read Musil’s work in its cultural context and explore the artists, writers, thinkers and composers who helped make this period in Vienna so singular, including Sigmund Freud, Hermann Broch, Karl Kraus, Peter Altenburg, Joseph Roth, and the anonymous feminist writer known as El Hor / El Ha. We will also devote time to the art and architecture of the Vienna Secession and the works of the Wiener Werkstätte.

Learning Outcomes:
-To gain an understanding of literary texts from different cultures, traditions, languages and time periods;
-To interpret these texts using a range of critical tools;
-To communicate ideas clearly in discussion and in critical writing;
-To collaborate with peers on research-oriented projects.

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Interested students should submit either a critical or creative writing sample (5 pp.) via this form by November 17. Admitted students will be notified by email on November 22.
Corequisites: Students in this class are required to attend Literature evenings on most Wednesday nights, including Poetry at Bennington.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
T 2:10PM - 5:50PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , Literature
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