The Broken Medium. An Austrian Modernist Theory of the Event

How is it possible that a failed past-tense political paradigm like the double monarchy of the disintegrating Austro-Hungarian empire can morph into a springboard for so many pivotal innovations in the domain of aesthetic form? How does this self-consciously regressive return to a purely »Austrian idea« of togetherness, performed by artists as disparate as Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arnold Schoenberg, Hermann Broch, and Robert Musil, come to engender a new approach to the broader European conundrum of a postwar, trans-national future? The project examines this counterintuitive metamorphosis, together with the central questions of temporal structure thereby raised, in order to demonstrate that the notion of »meaningful transformation« actually means something different, against the twentieth-century backdrop of the Austro-Hungarian specter, than it has ever done elsewhere before or since.

At stake here, so the hypothesis, is a unique model of aesthetic temporality that arises in and through a specifically Austrian modernist rethinking of dramatic, operatic, and narrative plot structures. This rethinking, which has a political valence as well as an aesthetic one, rests on an unfamiliar interpretation of the category of the temporal turning point, defined as the transformative event—the peripeteia, the revolution, the conversion—that bestows meaningful shape on the trajectory of a subject, a community, or an artwork. The goal of the project is thus to extract from the work of several canonical Austrian modernists a profoundly uncanonical approach to the task of aesthetic and political form-bestowal.

Program funding through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Sep 2018–Dec 2019
Head researcher(s): Sarah Pourciau


17 Oct 2018 · 6.00 pm

Sarah Pourciau: Die Mediatrix der Kunst. Zu den weiblichen Medien der ästhetischen Transfiguration (Beatrice bis Lulu)

Universität Basel, Deutsches Seminar, Nadelberg 4, 4051 Basel (CH)

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Seminar at the 42nd GSA Annual conference in Pittsburgh
27 Sep 2018 – 30 Sep 2018

Science of the Psyche

Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown, 600 Commonwealth Pl, Pittsburgh 15222 (USA)

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