On Display: Conditions of Critique in Austria
Postwar Austrian literature features an unusual number of writers whose literary attacks are directed at their own nation. How do we explain this high concentration of tirades in Austria? Thomas Bernhard's "Alte Meister" provides a possible answer. For Bernhard, the work of art is the primary object of critical judgments. The crucial site for this critical judgment is the museum, since it puts artworks on display in a nonreligious context, as artifacts divested of sacred meaning. Bernhard's novel indicates that Austria as a whole has become the object of sustained critique because it has elevated the museum to the status of the paradigmatic state institution. The critical judgments of authors are directed toward Austria because this nation puts itself on display for citizens and tourists alike, and has turned itself into an object of critical assesment. As a country that appears as a museum, Austrian is not necessarily the worst of nations, but perhaps the most criticizable.
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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