Hermann Broch and Mass Hysteria
Title Details

268 Pages

22.8 x 15.2 cm

Series: Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture

Series Vol. Number: 228

Imprint: Camden House

Hermann Broch and Mass Hysteria

Theory and Representation in the Age of Extremes

by Brett E. Sterling

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The first English-language monograph on Hermann Broch's literary and theoretical work on mass hysteria.

Winner of the 2023 Radomír Luža Prize for the Best Manuscript in Austrian/Czechoslovak Studies in the World War II Era

Austrian Jewish author Hermann Broch (1886-1951), a leading figure of European Modernism, spent decades attempting to understand the phenomenon of mass hysteria. With his work, he hoped to help protect society from the allure of mass hysteria, embodied in the fanatical appeal of National Socialism. He was torn between two approaches to the problem: using literature to diagnose and expose the irrational knowledge that underpins mass hysteria, and employing theory as a more precise and effective means of doing the same.

In this first English-language monograph on the topic, Brett E. Sterling traces the development of Broch's understanding of the mass from an initial confrontation in 1918 to a recurring theme in his fiction and ultimately to the monumental but incomplete Massenwahntheorie (Theory of Mass Hysteria, 1939-48). In thorough readings of Broch's major fictional and theoretical works, the analysis centers on the question of how his literature and theory provide distinct but complementary approaches to conceiving and representing the elusive figure of the mass and the attendant experience of mass hysteria. With political extremism and conspiratorial thinking on the rise, Sterling makes the case that Broch's insights into mass hysteria - literary as well as theoretical - are of renewed relevance to a contemporary audience.
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction
1: First Encounters, 1918-1929
2: The Power of Literature
3: The Mass Takes Shape: Literary Representations
4: Theory and Its Discontents: The Massenwahntheorie
5: The Threshold of Experience: Die Verzauberung
Conclusion
Bibliography
Index

BRETT E. STERLING is Associate Professor of German at the University of Arkansas.

"This is one of the best and clearest investigations of Hermann Broch's work that has appeared in recent years. . . . It is the first monograph devoted to the representation and analysis of the modern mass in Broch's narrative and essayistic works." Journal of Austrian Studies
"Notoriously, Hermann Broch never makes it easy for his readers, be it in the tortuous style or the challenging subjects of his writing. Yet as Sterling shows throughout this lucid and thought-inducing study, everything that so exercised Broch during the 'age of extremes' has, alas, become current again today." Modern Language Review

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Title Details

268 Pages

2.28 x 1.52 cm

Series: Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture

Series Vol. Number: 228

Imprint: Camden House