What matters to you.

Forum Network

Free online lectures: Explore a world of ideas

Funding provided by:

Robert Musil's "The Man Without Qualities"

In partnership with:
Date and time
Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Harvard literary scholar Susanne Klingenstein discusses Robert Musil's "The Man Without Qualities" as part of the Goethe-Institut Boston's "What is German?" seminar. Musil's doorstop of a novel *Man without Qualities*, is a monument to the forces that caused the disintegration of the Habsburg empire. We can summarize these forces as "modernism". Musil (1880-1942), like so many Viennese writers of his time, tried to pin them down in a philosophical work of art. His novel centers on a mathematician who tries to determine the meaning of his life. Nevertheless, the first part is quite readable and enjoyable despite some heavy lifting. However, poor Musil died after 20 years of labor and 1700 pages, leaving the rest of his work unfinished. This lecture discusses the first part of Musil's novel.

Susanne Klingenstein is a writer and literary scholar. She teaches philosophy and history of medical culture as a lecturer in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology at the Harvard Medical School. She is also a regular contributor to *Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung* and *The Weekly Standard*. She studied German, English, American, and Yiddish literature at the University of Heidelberg, Brandeis University and Harvard University. She earned her PhD in American Studies. Her books focus on the contribution of Jewish intellectuals to the study of literature. She is currently writing an introduction to Yiddish literature.