[UCP Books]: Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire

“Most critics have dealt with Austrian modernism—and modernism in general—from a prewar perspective. Perloff rightly sees the aftermath of the war, the breakup of empire, as informing the Austro-Modernists’ boldest works. Edge of Irony presents a model for attuning literary study to the political complexities with which writings like these are eternally embroiled.” Thomas Harrison, University of California, Los Angeles



Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire
By Marjorie Perloff


US Publication Date: May 25, 2016 Cloth   $30.00 / £21.00
International Publication Date: June 13, 2016 ISBN-13: 978-0-226-05442-1

Among the brilliant writers and thinkers who emerged from the multicultural and multilingual world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were Joseph Roth, Robert Musil, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. For them, the trauma of World War I included the sudden loss of the geographical entity into which they had been born: in 1918, the empire was dissolved overnight, leaving Austria a small, fragile republic that would last only twenty years before being annexed by Hitler’s Third Reich. In this major reconsideration of European modernism, Marjorie Perloff identifies and explores the aesthetic world that emerged from the rubble of Vienna and other former Habsburg territories—an “Austro-Modernism” that produced a major body of drama, fiction, poetry, and autobiography. She demonstrates that Austro-Modernist literature, nostalgic for the empire and affected by the ever-impending threat of new war and expulsion—yet also tempered by its writers’ regular contact with the languages and cultures of the empire’s outsider groups—strangely anticipates much of the darkness and cynicism, but also the intense humor, seen in our own twenty-first-century culture.   


Marjorie Perloff is professor of English emerita at Stanford University and the Florence R. Scott Professor of English Emerita at the University of Southern California. She is the author of many books, including, most recently, Poetics in a New Key and Unoriginal Genius, also published by the University of Chicago Press.


Please contact Rose Rittenhouse at (773) 702-0376 or rittenhouse@uchicago.edu for more information.


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