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Robert Musil's Intellectual Affinities


Edited By Brett Martz and Todd Cesaratto

In German-speaking modernity, Robert Musil may lay the last valid claim to the title of Universalgenie. Trained as a soldier, engineer, philosopher, and psychologist, he did not shy from investigations beyond his accredited purview. His work repurposes the conceptual inventories of literature, philosophy, science, law, medicine, politics, education, etc. to revisit classical questions of beauty, truth, and morality within an ultra-complex modern context. The answers he finds are not conclusive but suggestive and always invite re-examination. Musil studies, at its best, embraces his practice of multivalent inquiry, and the present essay collection endeavors to follow suit. Drawing from Musil’s fiction, essays, letters, diaries, and public addresses, the authors of this volume offer unexpected treatments of ideas that Musil examined and reveal previously overlooked links between those ideas and other authors, works, and movements. The contributions have a footing in fields such as psychology, sociology, and statistics; cover concepts like humor, identity, and love; and deal with literary epochs or theories ranging from Romanticism and Modernity to decadence and reader response.