Ghosts of Imperial Vienna
Necropolis: Introduction to the Ghosts of Imperial Vienna
Introduction to the Ghosts of Imperial Austria
Austria, successor state to a Holy Roman, then Austrian, then Austro-Hungarian Empire that never had an official name, is remembered today principally for its marketing. The popular mind settled on fin de siècle Vienna as the image of an imperial power that was disassembled at the end of the First World War. But it has always had an allure, a myth surrounding it.
At least since the 1970s, complaints have been raised against Vienna as the heart of Austria’s museale Kultur—a fossil, museum (even mausoleum) city, rather than an environment fostering innovation. This image was reinforced by the plethora of “Vienna 1900” museum exhibits of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and by Schorske’s discussion of theRingstrasse in Fin de siècle Vienna (1981). To this day, these charges have stuck, no matter that, in the 1970s, Austria’s young intellectuals and artists actually were actively working against these stereotypes, taking aim at what they considered the excess state funding directed at the Vienna Opera and the Salzburg Festival by an increasingly conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) administration. Nonetheless, Vienna persists in the musty, funereal image established in the public mind by the Third Man ’s tour through its sewers and perpetuated on webpages calling it die Nekropole, the necropolis.1
In what follows, I will offer some glances into dustier corners of that myth—into the great lost torso of an imperial culture that incubated so...
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