Alys George’s book, published by the University of Chicago Press, offers a striking new cultural history of one of the best-known centers of modernist cultural production.
Viennese modernism is often described in terms of a fin-de-siècle fascination with the psyche. But this stereotype of the movement as essentially cerebral overlooks a rich cultural history of the body. The Naked Truth—an interdisciplinary re-reading of Vienna’s visual, literary, and performative cultures—charts a new genealogy for the era through the body cultures of the late imperial and interwar decades. Its departure point is the second Vienna medical school, which revolutionized the fields of anatomy and pathology in the second half of the 1800s. The aftereffects of this materialist focus on the body flowed into a broad range of cultural forms—exhibitions, literature, portraiture, dance, film, and more. The Naked Truth brings into dialogue a diverse group of historical protagonists, both canonical and long-overlooked, while reading popular and “high” culture together. In so doing, it uncovers the complex interplay of the physical and the aesthetic that shaped modernism and offers an innovative interpretation of this fascinating moment in the history of the West.
Alys George is assistant professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of German at New York University, where she is also affiliate faculty at the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies. She currently holds a Franz Werfel Fellowship from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science, and Research/Austrian Exchange Service and was a Fulbright/IFK_Junior Fellow.