Karl Kraus and the Discourse of Modernity

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ISBN 978-0-8101-4162-9
Publication Date
May 2020
Page Count
216 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Karl Kraus and the Discourse of Modernity

Ari Linden

Ari Linden’s Karl Kraus and the Discourse of Modernity reconsiders the literary works of the Viennese satirist, journalist, and playwright Karl Kraus (1874–1936). Linden reads Kraus’s work both on its own terms and alongside philosophy and critical theory, yielding a portrait of Kraus as an irrepressible figure in the modernist tradition. In doing so, Linden draws a more robust image of German modernism itself.
Combining close readings with intellectual history, Linden shows how Kraus’s two major literary achievements (The Last Days of Mankind and The Third Walpurgis Night) and a lesser-known play (Cloudcuckooland) address the political catastrophes of the first third of Europe’s twentieth century—from World War I to the rise of fascism. Kraus’s central insight, Linden argues, is that the medial representations of such events have produced less an informed audience than one increasingly unmoved by mass violence. In the second part of the book, Linden explores this insight as he sees it inflected in Søren Kierkegaard, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno. This hidden dialogue, Linden argues, offers us a richer understanding of the often neglected relationship between satire and critical theory writ large.

About the Author

ARI LINDEN is an assistant professor in the Department of German Studies at the University of Kansas.

“Ari Linden’s Karl Kraus and the Discourse of Modernity offers an illuminating view onto Kraus’s three major creative works, The Last Days of Mankind, Cloudcuckooland, and The Third Walpurgisnacht. Linden’s principal contribution is an original analysis of Kraus’s use of language in its relation to his contemporary reality—and in particular World War I, the creation of the Austrian Republic in the 1920s, and the era of National Socialism.” —Michael W. Jennings, coauthor of Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life

“Ari Linden’s Karl Kraus and the Discourse of Modernity offers a compelling portrait of Kraus as a cultural critic in dark times, whose work runs parallel to other major figures of modernism. Linden offers measured assessments of Kraus’s successes and limitations, his power and powerlessness, and what they offered, and continue to offer, to later generations of readers and critics.” —Kirk Wetters, author of The Opinion System: Impasses of the Public Sphere from Hobbes to Habermas

“Among the interlocking pieces of German and European modernism still scattered on the table, none remains more in need of ordered consideration, none remains more puzzling, more open to clarification than the works, influence, and reach of Karl Kraus. Linden’s outstanding new study offers fresh insight on every page. Above all he offers an illuminating account of Karl Kraus’s handshake across the decades with Søren Kierkegaard and a bracing assessment of Kraus’s large presence in the critical imagination and writings of Benjamin and Adorno.” —Stephen D. Dowden, coeditor of Tragedy and the Tragic in German Literature, Art, and Thought

“Enormously erudite and enviably conversant with critical theory, Linden  convincingly argues that modernism cannot be fully understood without taking account of the towering—but still often neglected—figure of Karl Kraus.” —William Collins Donahue, author of Holocaust as Fiction: Bernhard Schlink's "Nazi Novels" and Their Films