Robert Musil’s "Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften </I>as a Critical-Utopian Project
Introduction: The Cultural Critique of Robert Musil
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The Cultural Critique of Robert Musil
1. Robert Musil as a Cultural Theorist
After Musil’s death in 1942, it took several decades for his masterpiece Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften to receive the attention it merits, mainly due to its unfinished state and overwhelming scope and complexity. Nowadays the novel is acknowledged as a modernist classic that has its place in the canon of the greatest literature of the twentieth century, next to Joyce, Proust or Kafka. In 1999, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften was voted as the most important German-language novel of the century by a jury of 99 German writers and scholars, before classics like Der Zauberberg or Der Prozess.
More recently, Musil’s work has also drawn increasing attention from philosophers, finding in his writings reflections of such richness and originality that they deserve to be studied on their own. French philosopher Jacques Bouveresse raises the question in one of his studies of Musil whether the time hasn’t finally come to regard Musil’s thought as a philosophy in its own right (Bouveresse, 2001). Also in France, a book has appeared with the title La philosophie autrichienne de Bolzano à Musil; Histoire et actualité, granting Musil a central place in Austrian philosophy (Mulligan and Commeti, eds., 2002). In 2014, the philosophy journal The Monist published a special issue devoted entirely to ‘the philosophy of Robert Musil’. In their classic study of Vienna at the turn of the century, Allan Janik...
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