The Austrian Tradition in German Culture: An Intellectual History
David Luft is writing an intellectual history of German-speaking Austria since the eighteenth century. His aim is to give historical shape to Austrian intellectual life by locating Austrian writers, philosophers, and other intellectuals within the wider context of language, culture, and politics in Central Europe. Eric Hobsbawm once asked why the intellectual histories "of Germany and Austria in the nineteenth century, [like those] of England and Scotland in the eighteenth century," were "so different, though linguistically and culturally … these countries belonged together." This is roughly the problem David Luft has in mind, but Austria in the nineteenth century was linguistically more complex than Scotland in the eighteenth century, and David Luft will consider the intellectual history of Austria over the past three hundred years, a period when the geographical and political forms of Austria changed a great deal. Despite the large literature on Austrian intellectual history, what we still do not have is an overview of Austrian intellectual history from the eighteenth century to the present that clarifies its distinctive qualities in relation to the wider realm of German language and culture. The conventional separation of political history from the study of language, literature, and philosophy has prevented certain issues from finding clear formulation. David Luft’s account of the Austrian tradition in German culture will concentrate primarily on the geographical region marked by the historical overlap between the Habsburg Monarchy and the German Reich (or Confederation) before 1866, that is, Cisleithanian Austria, the Austro-Bohemian lands that were administered centrally after 1749. David Luft wants to make explicit the specifically linguistic dimension of Austrian literature and intellectual history and to circumscribe a narrative of intellectual life that is often submerged or obscured in accounts of German culture.
Professor of Modern European History at the University of California at San Diego
U.a. Eros and Inwardness in Vienna: Weininger, Musil, Doderer, Chicago 2003