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The Hotel as Setting in Early Twentieth-Century German and Austrian Literature

The Hotel as Setting in Early Twentieth-Century German and Austrian Literature: Checking in to Tell a Story

Bettina Matthias
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The Hotel as Setting in Early Twentieth-Century German and Austrian Literature
    Book Description:

    As the bourgeois concept of "home" became problematic after important changes in German-speaking society during the 19th century, many fiction writers chose the literary setting of the hotel to explore the status of the individual and the notions of public and private. As social microcosms, hotels are fitting experimental settings for literary inquiries into the tension between the individual's quest for a place in the world and the technocratic rationalism of modern life. The book has two parts, the first establishing the cultural and theoretical context and the second providing analyses of literary works set in hotels. A brief history of commercial hospitality and a chapter establishing the theoretical framework of the hotel as a paradigmatic, ambivalent, semi-public, and stage-like modern space lead to readings of texts by Schnitzler, Zweig, Werfel, Kafka, Thomas Mann, Joseph Roth, and Vicki Baum. BETTINA MATTHIAS is associate professor of German at Middlebury College.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-675-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    B. M.
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    This is Theodor W. Adorno in his 1951 collection of essays Minima Moralia, assessing the possibility of living at home, “wohnen” in a post-1945 world. As is well known, a well-housed life “after Auschwitz” is morally almost impossible for the German intellectual, but Adorno’s criticism goes much farther in this eighteenth chapter of his Minima Moralia, entitled “Refuge For the Homeless.” For Adorno, the “enforced conditions of emigration” as well as the moral imperative “not to be at home in one’s home” anymore are the only appropriate attitude towards developments whose beginnings go back to the later nineteenth century and...

  5. 1: The History of European Commercial Hospitality
    (pp. 17-26)

    The European hotel is an invention or development of the earlier nineteenth century. The hotel as we understand the term today — as a business in the service sector that offers travelers standards of overnight accommodations and entertainment beyond the necessary¹ — was first seen in the United States with the opening of Barnum’s City Hotel in Baltimore (1825) and the famous Tremont Hotel in Boston (1829).² Not long after, European entrepreneurs started building their own modern hotels, following the standards for comfort, luxury, and service that their American colleagues had set, thus effectively introducing a new kind of commercial hospitality to...

  6. 2: The Hotel and Hotel Culture in Modernism — Some Critical Thoughts
    (pp. 27-52)

    This chapter will introduce theories by three eminent social critics of modernism, Georg Simmel, Thorstein Veblen, and, a generation younger, Siegfried Kracauer. Their combined theories about the impact that money and wealth have on social structures and behavioral codes will provide the conceptual framework for our understanding of the hotel as a prime representative of modern inhabited space, as a metaphor as well as a breeding ground for modern life and its corresponding Zeitgeist.¹ Viewed through this lens, the hotel, no matter where it is, appears as an intrinsically modern, urban setting in which human relations are conditioned by their...

  7. 3: Players and Places: Stock Elements of Hotel Culture and Fiction
    (pp. 53-66)

    It is time to check into the hotel. Ideally, we will land in a place where architecture, objects, and people effectively work together to make sure that the total hotel environment enchants the guest from the moment he or she thinks about setting foot in this place. They provide the setting and backdrop for personal encounters, and they structure lives, movement, and time in the hotel’s halls and rooms. When we approach a hotel, we know what to expect because we know the requisites of this setting. If we were to find an element changed or missing, we would have...

  8. 4: Women in Hotels
    (pp. 67-117)

    Nothing describes better the problematic nature of the hotel for women in the texts to be discussed in this chapter than Arthur Schnitzler’s title character Fräulein Else’s ironic observation as she walks back from a tennis match to the Hotel Fratazza, the “magic castle”² where she spends a short vacation with relatives. As someone who can vacation in this Italian mountain hotel in San Martino, even if only invited by her rich aunt, Else seems part of the leisure class. A a guest, she enjoys all the luxuries of this classy hotel³ and displays all the signs of “conspicuous leisure”...

  9. 5: Men in Hotels
    (pp. 118-172)

    How do men deal with and survive their stay in upscale hotels in the early twentieth century? What is the role of hotels in these men’s stories? Joseph Roth’s character Gabriel Dan’s statement suggests that the relationship between the male guest or hotel resident and his environment is much less unsettling than that of young female guests. He expects this hotel to offer him possibilities for social ascent, but the prospect of economic success would not affect his identity. The Hotel Savoy would be a magic castle without the problems that Else (Fräulein Else), Christine Hoflehner (Rausch der Verwandlung), and...

  10. 6: Menschen im Hotel
    (pp. 173-198)

    We have arrived at our last stop, Vicki Baum’s Grand Hôtel in Berlin’s city center.¹ The time is March 1929, the global economic crisis has not yet hit, and modernism rules in Weimar Germany’s capital. The electric-lit streets are lined with shops and filled with cars and noise; people rush from one end of the city to the other, and technology and mass events structure their use of time. The revolving door of the elegant Grand Hôtel never stands still, creating a constant exchange between the street and the inside, and as Baum sweeps us into the hotel on the...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 199-202)

    We are at the end of our literary journey. All that remains to do is pack, check out, and depart. What will we put in our bags? Our belongings: souvenirs, gifts, and, of course, our books. And our knowledge that the time that we spent in these rooms will probably not leave a substantial trace. New guests will come to exercise their right over these temporary homes. They will see themselves reflected in the room’s mirror, will rearrange pieces of furniture, move accessories. They will put their clothes in the closet, lie on the bed and press their bodies onto...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-214)
  13. Index
    (pp. 215-221)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 222-222)