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Walking Through History

Topography and Identity in the Works of Ingeborg Bachmann and Thomas Bernhard

Katya Krylova

This book was the winner of the 2011 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in German Studies.
The post-war landscape of Europe is unthinkable without the voices of the Austrian writers Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–1973) and Thomas Bernhard (1931–1989). Their work, coming after the devastation wrought by the Second World War and the Holocaust, is rooted in a specifically Austrian context of repression of this traumatic historical legacy. In post-war Austria, discourse on the recent past may have been dominated by silence, but the legacy of this past was all too apparent in the country’s ruined and speedily reconstructed cityscapes.
This book investigates Bachmann’s and Bernhard’s treatment of two fundamental aspects of the Austrian historical legacy: the trauma of the war and the desire to return to an ideal homeland, known as ‘Haus Österreich’. Following a methodology based on Freud and Benjamin, this comparative study demonstrates that the confrontation with Austria’s troubled history occurs through the protagonists’ ambivalent encounter with the landscape or cityscape that they inhabit, travel or return to. The book demonstrates the centrality of topography on both thematic and structural levels in the authors’ prose works, as a mode of confronting the past and making sense of the present.


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The research presented in this book has its origins in a doctoral thesis completed at Churchill College, Cambridge, in 2011. My deepest thanks go to my supervisor, Professor Andrew Webber, for his invaluable insight, attentive criticism, and inspiration that have guided this project from its beginnings. I am greatly indebted to Dr Michael Minden for his support and engagement with my project. I would also like to thank Dr Lucia Ruprecht and Professor Jonathan Long, as well as my graduate colleagues within the Department of German and Dutch, University of Cambridge. I wish to thank my colleagues at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the History and Theory of Biography in Vienna, and in particular, Professor Wilhelm Hemecker. Finally I would like to thank Dr Laurel Plapp at Peter Lang Oxford for expertly overseeing this publication through to its com- pletion, as well as the distinguished Editorial Board at Peter Lang for the honour of selecting this manuscript as the winner of the 2011 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in German Studies. The research presented in this monograph was made possible by the generous support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), to whom I am most grateful. This project was also greatly enriched by a three-month AHRC-funded research visit to the Department of German Studies, University of Vienna. I would like to thank Professor Robert Pichl for his time and advice throughout the course of my time at the University of Vienna, and for facilitating my archival research with...

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