The World as Metaphor in Robert Musil's The Man without Qualities

December 2012
216 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571135384
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT020000, PHI001000

The World as Metaphor in Robert Musil's The Man without Qualities

Possibility as Reality

Genese Grill

The first study to utilize the Klagenfurt Edition of Musil's Nachlass offers a close reading of textual variations, emphasizing Musil's commitment to the artist's role in re-creating the world.
Robert Musil, known to be a scientific and philosophical thinker, was committed to aesthetics as a process of experimental creation of an ever-shifting reality. Musil wanted, above all, to be a creative writer, and obsessively engaged in almost endless deferral via variations and metaphoric possibilities in his novel project, The Man without Qualities. This lifelong process of writing is embodied in the unfinished novel by a recurring metaphor of self-generating de-centered circle worlds. The present study analyzes this structure with reference to Musil's concepts of the utopia of the Other Condition, Living and Dead Words, Specific and Non-Specific Emotions, Word Magic, and the Still Life. In contrast to most recent studies of Musil, it concludes that the extratemporal metaphoric experience of the Other Condition does not fail, but rather constitutes the formal and ethical core of Musil's novel. The first study to utilize the newly published Klagenfurt Edition of Musil's literary remains (a searchable annotated text), The World as Metaphor offers a close reading of variations and text genesis, shedding light not only on Musil's novel, but also on larger questions about the modernist artist's role and responsibility in consciously re-creating the world.

Genese Grill holds a PhD in Germanic Literatures and Languages from the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Failure to Reconcile as Modernist Success
Repeatability and Crime
Word Magic
Still Life: (Not) Doing What Isn't Done


Grill's meticulously researched study offers a persuasive and original interpretation of [Musil's] novel. . . . [T]his book is highly recommended for a deeper understanding of Musil's brilliant and still relevant modernist work. JOURNAL OF AUSTRIAN STUDIES

Grill's book is a careful meditation on the poetics of metaphor that she finds organizing Musil's novel. Grill has mined the Nachlaß to good effect, making available important material and new considerations of the novel. GERMAN QUARTERLY

[A] worthy contribution to international Musil research. Grill obtains with it the rare status of a researcher who at one and the same time explains a thesis and carries it out in her own writing. For her painstaking work in the archive the study earns the particular praise and interest of those who want to concern themselves more deeply with the canonical works of modernism such as The Man without Qualities. MUSIL-FORUM

[P]rovides an invaluable structure - the best I've encountered - for assessing the later sections and unfinished draft material of The Man Without Qualities. . . . Grill's major achievement is in bringing together the disparate, unpublished material of Musil's last years into a structure that clarifies, at least somewhat, Musil's ambitions. . . . For illuminating the join between the earlier and latter sections of [Musil's novel] in a way that gives real shape to the whole, Grill's book is tremendous. DAVID AUERBACH, WAGGISH.ORG

[I]nspired and textually knowledgeable . . . . [A] spirited and enthusiastic defence of the creative literary act as a kind of utopian "révolution permanente" . . . forever avoiding closure . . . . The reader is led through a rich textual landscape, from quotation to quotation (including material from the Klagenfurt electronic edition . . .), but the overall impression thus generated is of a self-referential and secular artistic universe that is loaded with theological expectations - something that would surely have made Musil smile. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

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