This course is taught in English. All readings and discussions will be conducted in English.
This course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the literature and the visual culture of fin-de-siècle Vienna and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the aftermath of its disintegration into World War I. With an emphasis on the relationship between different disciplines (literature, art, critical theory, history, and psychology) the course will be organized around major themes from the period, such as sexuality, gender, decay, and the crisis of identity and language. The analysis of works such as Egon Schiele's self-portraits reveals mankind's crisis of identity when confronted by an era characterized by the absence of any ordering principles. Arthur Schnitzler's play Reigen and his novella Night Games unmask a battle of the sexes and the changing dynamic between men and women. Gustav Klimt's Secessionist paintings express a fresh hope for a renewal in art and society and his portrayal of the feminine form undercut previous views regarding gender and sexuality. Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Chandos Brief lays bare the notion that the inherited language of past traditions is no longer capable of expressing modern man's experience. Wes Anderson's modern film The Grand Budapest Hotel seeks to capture the decay of the Empire as it holds up a mirror that brilliantly reflects 'the world of yesterday' that Stefan Zweig so faithfully describes as he looks back to the Vienna of his youth. Finally, with the primary material contextualized within a variety of social, historical, and theoretical texts pertinent to the topics and the era, such as Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, Carl Schorske's Fin-de-Siècle Vienna Politics and Culture, and Hermann Broch's Hofmannsthal and His Time, the course will inquire into the relationship between the political and social change of Vienna and it's literary and artistic representation.
Through written, analytical responses as well as creative individual and group projects, students will have the opportunity to delve into other cultural aspects of the city, both from the turn of the century and contemporary Vienna.