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  • Hermann Broch und die Romantik ed. by Doren Wohlleben and Paul Michael Lützeler
  • Jacob van der Kolk
Doren Wohlleben and Paul Michael Lützeler, eds., Hermann Broch und die Romantik. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014. 230pp.

Modernist author and polymath Hermann Broch has long confounded his reception. Scholarship has struggled with the dissonances in an oeuvre that asserts systematic consistency across such varied pursuits as literature, aesthetic theory, political science, sociology, and mass psychology. Over the last decades, this scholarship has increasingly confronted such “affirmative” readings critically, eschewing the presupposition of consistency in favor of a dynamic understanding of the thinker. One sees a continuation of this trend in Paul Michael Lützeler and Doren Wohlleben’s Hermann Broch und die Romantik, the proceedings of the 2012 Munich symposium “Wertbilder: Auflösungsprozesse und Erlösungsutopien: Hermann Broch und die Romantik.” This anthology deals with the author’s fraught relationship with Romanticism as concept and historical movement, both of which he attacks while replicating many of their practices. As Lützeler and Wohlleben argue, while Broch’s theoretical works assert “eine explizite Abgrenzung zur Romantik [. . .] so lassen sich in seinem literarischen Werk immer wieder implizite Anlehnungen an romantische Konzepte beobachten.” Correspondingly, this anthology’s contributions negotiate those dissonances, particularly Broch’s antagonistic affinity with Early Romanticism’s sentimentalist and mythological programs, and contextualize many of these discontinuities, taking special note of contemporaries such as Carl Schmitt.

The anthology is divided into three sections. The first interrogates Broch’s critique of Romanticism in light of the contemporaneous historical and intellectual context, such as the journal Hochland, neo-Kantian and neo-Positivist philosophy, and sociology à la Max Weber and Georg Simmel. Walter Hinderer’s contribution maps out the parallels between Broch’s world-historical project and that of the early Romanticists. Both envision the modernity as a fractured age in need of new cosmogonic unity found in myth, although Broch looks to the anti-Romanticist aesthetics of Kafka for this myth. Further noting affinities between his aesthetics and those of early Romanticism, Alice Stašková explicates the contemporaneous influences behind Broch’s conflation of Romanticism with the “declining” nineteenth century writ large. For Stašková, the author’s critique repeats the common refrain of his time that this “Romanticist epoch” lacked a “großen Stil,” for which he himself aims. Friedrich Vollhardt reconstructs a program of “mythisierendem Erzählen” out of Broch’s [End Page 158] fragmentary mythological theory by splicing in Schelling and Erich Unger and applies this in a comparative reading of Broch’s Die Schlafwandler. Vollhardt highlights Broch’s mythic thematization of private experience, the psychology of irrationality, and the individual internalization of religiosity. Following up on Broch’s world-historical outlook and that of Romanticism, Thomas Borgard associates the author’s “Unbehagen an der Romantik” with his critique of the fragmentary relativism of modernity, which implicitly recalls the Romanticist tension between fragment and totality. Noting parallels with Carl Schmitt, Borgard reads Der Tod des Vergil as a continuation of Romanticist skepticism to liberal democracy. Finally, Manuel Illi relates Broch’s linguistic philosophy to both Early Romanticist symbolism and Neo-positivism. For Illi, Broch’s theories disclose the mutually exclusive limitations of both the Neo-positivist sciences and the quasi-Romanticist arts.

The second section evaluates Broch’s adaptation of Romanticism in his fictional oeuvre, showing how the author extended Romanticist elements into modernist contexts. Paul Michael Lützeler studies Broch’s trans-epochal definition of Romanticism as an attitude calling for a “revolutionary” return to tradition. On the first book of Schlafwandler, he examines this attitude vis-à-vis German colonialism and highlights the influence of Carl Schmitt on Broch in contrast to Novalis and Friedrich Schlegel in reference to the figure Bertrand. Shifting focus to the third book of Schlafwandler, Helmut Koopmann contrasts Broch’s depiction of modern crime with that of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Modern crime appears as radically logical action carried out entirely within, rather than outside of, an increasingly irrational world. Patrick Eiden-Offe applies Broch’s discontinuous understanding of political Romanticism to Tod des Vergil and sees here a collision of Carl Schmitt’s negative “ewiges Gespräch” with Franz von...


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pp. 158-160
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