Robert Musil’s "Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften </I>as a Critical-Utopian Project
Chapter 2: The Critical-Utopian Aspect of Der Mann Ohne Eigenschaften
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The Critical-Utopian Aspect of Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften
In the first chapter, I have described the way Musil assessed his times as a period of confusion and inadequate responses caused by an overly rigid morality. With his critique he wanted to move beyond the petrified limitations that blocked people from exploring other possibilities. But what was his aim with his critique and these new possibilities? The aim of this critique is the utopian aspect of his work. As I will explain, Musil’s ‘utopianism’ does not refer to one single aspect of his writing but to multiple phenomena, which will be clarified in this chapter.
Throughout Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, Ulrich proposes a series of enigmatic, alternative guidelines to live our lives differently, which he calls utopias. Musil’s conscious use of the notion of ‘utopia’ may seem strange in times when this term was getting a distinctly negative connotation. The negative connotations of the term utopia have only increased after the disastrous utopian political projects of the twentieth century. A utopia is nowadays often defined as literally a non-place, as an idealized mirage which by definition can never be achieved. It has become synonymous with unattainable ideals. Or worse, it is such an impossible ideal which people want to achieve at all costs, that it creates enormous violence and fanaticism. By consciously choosing the term ‘utopia’, Musil gives fuel to the critics who claimed that he turned away from reality...
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