Modernity and the Text

Modernity and the Text: Revisions of German Modernism

Andreas Huyssen
David Bathrick
Copyright Date: 1989
DOI: 10.7312/huys06644
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Modernity and the Text
    Book Description:

    The study of Austrian and German modernist literature has a long and venerable history in this country. There have been no attempts yet, however, to reassess German and Austrian literary modernism in light of current discussion of modernity and postmodernity. Addressing a set of historical and theoretical questions central to current reevaluations of modernism, this volume presents American readers with a state-of-the-art account of German modernism studies in the eighties.

    Essays by Jochen Schulte-Sasse, Russell A. Berman, Peter Uwe Hohendahl, Judith Ryan, Mark Anderson, Klaus R. Scherpe, Biddy Martin, Klaus L. Berghahn and Acbar Abbas, center around German and Austrian literary and philosophical prose of the early twentieth century. texts by well-known authors -Kafka, Rilke, Musil, Doblin, Benjamin, Benn, and Junger - and less well-known ones -Franz Jung, Carl Einstein, Ernst Bloch, Lou Andreas-Salome, are examined.

    Particular attention is paid to the processes and strategies by which certain experiences of "modern life" are translated into modern aesthetic forms.

    The unique contribution of this volume is that it combines theory with an attempt to reintroduce an historical and contextual dimension. The authors believe that their revisions of Ausrian and German modernism will themselves be informed by a new set of questions pertinent to the modernist debate.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51584-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Modernism and the Experience of Modernity
    (pp. 1-16)
    David Bathrick and Andreas Huyssen

    The study of German and Austrian modernism has a long and venerable history in this country. With the work of an older generation of scholars such as Walter Sokel (The Writer in Extremis) and Erich Heller (The Disinherited Mind), it has helped shape the American image of Central European modernism in the field of literature. It is no coincidence that Franz Kafka and Thomas Mann, both central figures in this earlier account of German modernism, have become common staples in comparative studies of literary modernism in the United States and still hold a privileged position quite unimaginable today in the...

  5. PART I The Avant-Garde:: Politics and the Text
    • Speaking the Other’s Silence: Franz Jung’s Der Fall Gross
      (pp. 19-35)
      David Bathrick

      Some if not most American readers will never have heard of Franz Jung—not to speak of Der Fall Gross. And for that reason mv initial strategy will be to exploit this ignorance in order to construct and reconstruct several biographies—of a literary text and of its authors—and in so doing to reflect upon the reasons for their somewhat bizarre status within the pantheon of the Weimar avant-garde. Of central concern will be what such constructions tell us about the modernist/avant-garde canon itself; and why the more recent rediscoveries of Jung, first in the early 1970s as a...

    • Carl Einstein; or, The Postmodern Transformation of Modernism
      (pp. 36-59)
      Jochen Schulte-Sasse

      In slightly altering the distinction between “the nostalgia for presence felt by the human subject” and “the jubilation which result[s] from the invention of new rules of the game” that Jean-François Lyotard attempted in his essay “Answering the Question: What Is Postmodernism?” I would like to distinguish between two modes of aesthetic modernism. Both modes presuppose a radical critique of social modernity, particularly of the instrumentalization of reason and language in the course of the civilizing process, of the alienation of people from one another, of the development of increasingly agonistic identities, and so on. But while one mode of...

    • Written Right Across Their Faces: Ernst Jünger’s Fascist Modernism
      (pp. 60-80)
      Russell A. Berman

      If the will triumphs, who loses? Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl’s cinematic account of the 1934 Nazi Party convention at Nuremberg, is one of the few aesthetic monuments of German fascism that have attracted serious critical scrutiny. In scene after scene one finds evidence of the ideological self-understanding of National Socialism: Hitler’s descent from the clouds, the cathartic applause welcoming the charismatic leader, the visions of the medieval city, the presence of the unified folk including contingents of peasants in their traditional costumes, the rough-and-tumble life in the encampment, the mass chorus of the Work Front, the demonstration of...

    • The Loss of Reality: Gottfried Benn’s Early Prose
      (pp. 81-94)
      Peter Uwe Hohendahl

      In 1915 a young German physician and officer, stationed as a member of the German occupation forces in Brussels, wrote a number of prose pieces, among them the novella “Gehirne.” In this text he created the figure of Rönne,

      the physician who could not endure the real world, who could not grasp reality anymore, who knew only the rhythmic opening and closing of the Ego and the personality,

      as the author commented some twenty years later in his autobiography.¹ When these short prose pieces, presenting Rönne as their central character, appeared first in the journal Die weiβen Blätter and later...

    • Each One as She May: Melanctha, Tonka, Nadja
      (pp. 95-110)
      Judith Ryan

      Despite the proliferation of discussion immediately following the appearance of Peter Bürger’s theories of the avant-garde in 1974,¹ our understanding of this phenomenon does not appear to have moved forward substantially in the last several years, precisely the time frame during which one might have expected a second phase in critical avant-garde theory. One problem arises no doubt as a result of the rapid transition from ideological criticism to deconstructionist and reader-oriented criticism. The newer methods, whose ideological implications are less overtly manifest, have been unable to engage effectively with the controversies unearthed by the techniques they supplant.

      It is...

  6. PART II Modernist Cities:: Paris—New York—Berlin
    • Paris / Childhood: The Fragmented Body in Rilke’s Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
      (pp. 113-141)
      Andreas Huyssen

      If ever there was a German poet said to embody the essence of high modernism, it surely must be Rainer Maria Rilke. And if literary modernism found its ultimate manifestation in lyric poetry, then Rilke’s Sonette an Orpheus and his Duineser Elegien had to be full-fledged embodiments of this privileged art form of the twentieth century. The poetry of the mature Rilke certainly seemed to fulfill the stringent requirements traditionally made of modernist poetry, such as originality of voice, the work as hermetically closed to the outside world, self-sufficiency, and purity of vision and language, all of which would guarantee...

    • Kafka and New York: Notes on a Traveling Narrative
      (pp. 142-161)
      Mark Anderson

      No, Kafka never went to New York. But he did imagine it and, as we know, gave an astounding presentation of the city—though perhaps not the city we commonly mean when we say “New York”—in his first novel, Der Verschollene, which Max Brod later published under the title of Amerika. Why did Kafka choose New York as a subject of representation for his first sustained literary project? What did this city represent to him? And what bearing did the notion of “America” or “New York” have on the literary texts he had already written?

      The key to these...

    • The City as Narrator: The Modern Text in Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz
      (pp. 162-180)
      Klaus R. Scherpe

      In question here is the narratability of the city. Even as Alfred Doblin sends his hero Franz Biberkopf into the city, to test him, as it were, and supplies him with a dramatic narrative text meant to demonstrate his identity—“I have something to do, something will happen, I won’t stir from here, I am Franz Biberkopf”¹—he deprives Biberkopf of his “own” narrative terrain. Franz Biberkopf wanders through the city like all the others: as an average passerby, by no means a flaneur to whom things bend meaningfully as he turns an astute glance their way.

      The faces of...

  7. PART III Writing and Modernist Thought
    • Woman and Modernity: The [Life]Styles of Lou Andreas-Salomé
      (pp. 183-199)
      Biddy Martin

      Alice Jardine begins her study of the “Configurations of Woman and Modernity,” or Gynesis, by staging an encounter between American feminism and contemporary French thought. Cognizant of the inevitable risks of homogenizing both actors in her standoff, Jardine outlines the tension between the two in terms that have an uncanny familiarity—in terms of a conflict between feminism, “a concept inherited from the humanist and rationalist eighteenth century about a group of human beings in history whose identity is defined by that history’s representation of sexual decidability, and contemporary French thought which has put every term of that definition into...

    • A View Through the Red Window: Ernst Bloch’s Spuren
      (pp. 200-215)
      Klaus L. Berghahn

      At a time when I was still contemplating my topic, I was asked: “What are you working on?” “I am struggling very hard,” I answered, “I am preparing my next error.” Of course, this is a well-known Keuner story, which Bertolt Brecht aptly called “hardship of the best.”¹ This short text has a double function here. It serves as a captatio benevolentiae, and it leads into the subject matter of this essay. Brecht’s story belongs to a cluster of texts written or published around 1930. Authors and texts that come to mind are: Walter Benjamin’s Einbahnstraβe (One-Way Street, 1928), Siegfried...

    • Walter Benjamin’s Collector: The Fate of Modern Experience
      (pp. 216-240)
      Ackbar Abbas

      Is it possible that the largely dated figure of the collector has anything to tell us about the experience of modernity? Walter Benjamin, himself a passionate collector, has this to say: “The figure of the collector, more attractive the longer one observes it, has not been given its due attention so far. One would imagine no figure more tempting to the romantic storytellers. The type is motivated by dangerous though domesticated passions.”¹ This is a provocative characterization of the collector, which places him in a paradoxical social space: one that is dangerous and domesticated at the same time. It is,...

  8. Index
    (pp. 241-248)