The Unconscionable Critic: Thomas Bernhard's Holzfällen
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Through a reading of Holzfällen, this essay seeks to address a persistent problem in the work of Thomas Bernhard: the curious divergence of critique and rational argument. The novel presents a series of scornful attacks on a variety of people, places, objects, and activities, but consistently withholds reasoned explanations, thus precluding any possible agreement with or acceptance of the views expressed in it. Scholars have proved unable to reconcile the unfairness, exaggeration, and disparateness of the narrator's claims with the novel's critical framework. By examining the discourse of affect in Holzfällen, the authors argue that it presents a form of critique whose central principle is the maintenance of social distance. The narrator wants neither to persuade nor to reform others, but rather to describe and enact a process of disentanglement and departure. © 2011 Modern Austrian Literature and Culture Association.
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Associate Professor of German Studies
Jakob Norberg’s research explores conceptions of community in German thought and literature. His first book, Sociability and Its Enemies (2014), examines the search for non-authoritarian forms of collectivity after the end of the Second World War and focuses on thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt, and Jürgen Habermas. His articles in literary studies locate the communal in literature by reconstructing how non-individual, collective voices appear in modern literary wo