Studies in Renaissance Literature
Robert Musil and European Modernism
This seminar provides an introduction to one of the key works of European modernism, Robert Musil’s unfinished novel The Man Without Qualities. Starting with two shorter narrative texts and the first chapters of the novel, we will focus on Musil’s modernist prose style. We will then move on to his understanding of the ‘essayistic novel’ and its engagement with science and psychology; psychiatry, the law, and morality; questions of perception and affect; the role of gender, sexuality, and violence; and the desire for “other states” of experience. This is a novel that is—from Emerson to Nietzsche, Mach, and Freud—in dialog with a wide range of scientific, psychological, and theoretical texts, and it will be our goal to bring many of these into view. Students who are interested in this seminar should read as much of the novel as possible before the start of the fall semester. With the exception of a few additional materials, all texts will be available in English and in German.