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Eros and Inwardness in Vienna

Weininger, Musil, Doderer

Although we usually think of the intellectual legacy of twentieth-century Vienna as synonymous with Sigmund Freud and his psychoanalytic theories, other prominent writers from Vienna were also radically reconceiving sexuality and gender. In this probing new study, David Luft recovers the work of three such writers: Otto Weininger, Robert Musil, and Heimito von Doderer. His account emphasizes the distinctive intellectual world of liberal Vienna, especially the impact of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche in this highly scientific intellectual world.

According to Luft, Otto Weininger viewed human beings as bisexual and applied this theme to issues of creativity and morality. Robert Musil developed a creative ethics that was closely related to his open, flexible view of sexuality and gender. And Heimito von Doderer portrayed his own sexual obsessions as a way of understanding the power of total ideologies, including his own attraction to National Socialism. For Luft, the significance of these three writers lies in their understandings of eros and inwardness and in the roles that both play in ethical experience and the formation of meaningful relations to the world-a process that continues to engage artists, writers, and thinkers today.

Eros and Inwardness in Vienna will profoundly reshape our understanding of Vienna’s intellectual history. It will be important for anyone interested in Austrian or German history, literature, or philosophy.

271 pages | 8 halftones, 2 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2003

Gender and Sexuality

History: European History, History of Ideas

Literature and Literary Criticism: Germanic Languages

Philosophy: History and Classic Works


"An exceptionally informative and lively study of the emergence of modern ways of thinking about sexuality in Austria at the turn of the century."

Robert Tobin | Journal of the History of Sexuality

“By calling attention to the influence of writers generally not familiar to an English-speaking audience, he adds new layers to our understanding of not only the Viennese intellectual climate, but that of the larger German-speaking realm. In addition, it further strengthens Viennese intellectuals’ leading role in pushing the boundaries of early 20th century thought on sexuality and gender.”

Andrew T. Wackerfuss | Archives of Sexual Behavior

“This text deserves to become a standard for the English-speaking audience. . . . Luft offers a model of how to read texts in historical context; it deserves pride of place in the library of anyone dealing with the fin de siècle.”

Katherine Arens | Austrian History Yearbook

Eros and Intimacy is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Its triptych of Weininger, Musil, and Doderer is masterfully done. Luft’s book will be of interest not only to students of Vienna, but also to anyone interested in the mysterious ways of intimacy, identity, and sexuality.”

Robert Weldon Whalen | German Studies Review

“Luft’s study is a stimulating exercise in reading against the grain. . . . The book should be of interest to anyone working in Austrian Studies, and will no doubt become a point of reference in this field.”

Daniel Steuer | Austrian Studies

“The theme of Eros and inwardness . . . refers to the possibility of inward perception preventing disintegration into violence. Inwardness failed in the cases of Weininger and the young Doderer, whose confusions became personally and socially disastrous. Luft’s illuminating book ably takes on the difficult and essential task of detailing those confusions and their consequences.”

Louis Rose | Austrian Studies Newsletter

"Luft has written three valuable essays on Otto Weininger, Robert Musil, and Heimito von Doderer, with special attention to their attitudes to questions of sexuality, gender, the erotic, ethics and the psyche.”

Steven Beller | Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Chapter One:Science and Irrationalism in Vienna, 1848-1900

Liberal Vienna
Scientific Materialism
Philosophic Irrationalism
Thinking about Sexuality and Gender

Chapter Two:Otto Weininger’s Vision of Gender and Modern Culture

Gender and Character
Gender and Method
Gender and Ethics
Gender and Modernity

Chapter Three:Love and Human Knowledge

Science and the Writer
Sexuality and Ethics
Ideology and Soul
Gender and the Other Condition

Chapter Four:Sexuality and the Politics of the Fascist Era

The War and the Writer
The Novel and National Socialism
Eros and Apperception, 1938-1955
Ideology and the Novel

Selected Bibliography

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