Main Legacies of Modernism: Art and Politics in Northern Europe, 1890-1950
Legacies of Modernism: Art and Politics in Northern Europe, 1890-1950Patrizia McBride, Richard W. McCormick, Monika Zagar
Between 1890 and 1950 modernist art and culture set out to challenge century-old notions of the individual and the community, culture and politics, morality and freedom, placing into question the very foundations of Western civilization. The essays in this volume present a novel assessment of various manifestations of modernism in Germany and Scandinavia by posing the question of its critical and political impact beyond traditional polarities such as right vs. left, illiberalism vs. Enlightenment, apolitical vs. engaged. In drawing on a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, including literary studies, art history, film and visual studies, urban studies, musicology, political theory, and the history of science and technology, the essays in this volume reexamine modernism's bold inquiry into areas such as the relation of art to technology and mass politics, the limits of liberal democracy, the reconceptualization of urban spaces, and the realignment of traditional art forms following the rise of new media such as film. The volume's contributors share a belief in the timeliness of modernism's critical impulse for a contemporary age confronted with ethical and political dilemmas that the modernists first articulated and to which they attempted to respond.
Legacies of Modernism Studies in European Culture and History edited by Eric D. Weitz and Jack Zipes University of Minnesota Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, the very meaning of Europe has been opened up and is in the process of being redefined. European states and societies are wrestling with the expansion of NATO and the European Union and with new streams of immigration, while a renewed and reinvigorated cultural engagement has emerged between the East and West. But the fast-paced transformations of the last fifteen years also have deeper historical roots. The reconfiguring of contemporary Europe is entwined with the cataclysmic events of the twentieth century, two world wars and the Holocaust, and with the processes of modernity that, since the eighteenth century, have shaped Europe and its engagement with the rest of the world. Studies in European Culture and History is dedicated to publishing books that explore major issues in Europe’s past and present from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives. The works in the series are interdisciplinary; they focus on culture and society and deal with significant developments in Western and Eastern Europe from the eighteenth century to the present within a social historical context. With its broad span of topics, geography, and chronology, the series aims to publish the most interesting and innovative work on modern Europe. Published by Palgrave Macmillan: Fascism and Neofascism: Critical Writings on the Radical Right in Europe by Eric Weitz Fictive Theories: Towards a Deconstructive and Utopian Political Imagination by Susan McManus German-Jewish Literature in the Wake of the Holocaust: Grete Weil, Ruth Klüger, and the Politics of Address by Pascale Bos Turkish Turn in Contemporary German Literature: Toward a New Critical Grammar of Migration by Leslie Adelson Terror and the Sublime in Art and Critical Theory: From Auschwitz to Hiroshima to September 11 by Gene Ray Transformations of the New Germany edited by Ruth Starkman Caught by Politics: Hitler Exiles and American Visual Culture edited by Sabine Eckmann and Lutz Koepnick Legacies of Modernism: Art and Politics in Northern Europe, 1890–1950 edited by Patrizia C. McBride, Richard W. McCormick, and Monika Zagar Legacies of Modernism Art and Politics in N or t h e r n Europ e , 1 8 9 0 – 1 950 Edited By Patrizia C. McBride, Richard W. McCormick, and Monika Jagar LEGACIES OF MODERNISM © Patrizia C. McBride, Richard W. McCormick, and Monika Aagar, 2007. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. First published in 2007 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN™ 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010 and Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England RG21 6XS Companies and representatives throughout the world. PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprint of the Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martin’s Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. Macmillan® is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries. ISBN-13: 978–1–4039–7323–8 ISBN-10: 1–4039–7323–7 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Legacies of modernism : art and politics in northern Europe, 1890–1950 / edited by Patrizia C. McBride, Richard W. McCormick and Monika Aagar. p. cm. —(Studies in European culture and history) Based on papers presented at a conference held Spring 2002, University of Minnesota. Includes bibliographical references and index. Contents: High, low, and other : the politics of music — Modernism/ Antimodernism, race and eugenics in Scandinavia — Science, technology, and German modernism — Architecture and urban planning in Weimar modernity — The politics of visual culture : Weimar, exile, and postwar — The politics of visual culture in the Third Reich — Modernist politics now : critiques of liberalism. ISBN 1–4039–7323–7 (alk. paper) 1. Arts—Political aspects—Europe, Northern—History—19th century—Congresses. 2. Arts—Political aspects—Europe, Northern—History—20th century—Congresses. 3. Modernism (Aesthetics)—Europe, Northern—Congress. I. McBride, Patrizia C. II. McCormick, Richard W., 1951– III. Aagar, Monika. NX180.P64L44 2007 700.94’09034—dc22 2006051384 A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Design by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd., Chennai, India. First edition: February 2007 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America. Con t e n t s List of Figures ix Acknowledgments xi Notes on the Contributors Introduction: The Future’s Past—Modernism, Critique, and the Political Patrizia C. McBride xiii 1 Section I High, Low, and Other: The Politics of Music Hans Pfitzner and the Anxiety of Nostalgic Modernism Marc A. Weiner 17 Mahler, Rembrandt, and the Dark Side of German Culture Carl Niekerk 29 Section II Modernism/Antimodernism, Race and Eugenics in Scandinavia The Resistance to Modernism in Karl Gjellerup’s Germanernes Lærling (1882) Paul Houe 43 Knut Hamsun’s “White Negro” from Ringen sluttet (1936)— Or the Politics of Race Monika Jagar 55 Eugenic Sterilization and the Role of Science— The Scandinavian Case Nils Roll-Hansen 67 vi / contents Section III Science, Technology, and German Modernism Reactionary Engineers? Technocracy and the Kulturfaktor Technik in Weimar Germany Andreas Michel 81 Science, Art, and the Question of the Visible: Rudolf Virchow, Hannah Höch, and “Immediate Visual Perception” Thomas O. Haakenson 93 Section IV Architecture and Urban Planning in Weimar Modernity Imagining the New Berlin: Modernism, Mass Utopia, and the Architectural Avant-Garde Sabine Hake 107 Rebuilding Babel: Urban Regeneration in the Modern/ Postmodern Age Janet Ward 119 Section V The Politics of Visual Culture: Weimar, Exile, and Postwar Politicizing Painting: The Case of New Objectivity Maria Makela 133 Modernism from Weimar to Hollywood: Expressionism/ New Objectivity/Noir? Richard W. McCormick 149 Clement Greenberg and the Postwar Modernist Canon: Minimizing the Role of Germany and Northern Europe Matthew Rohn 163 Section VI The Politics of Visual Culture in the Third Reich Framing Sight: Modernism and Nazi Visual Culture Lutz Koepnick 177 A Woman beside Herself: Art and Its Other in Nazi Movies Linda Schulte-Sasse 189 contents / vii Section VII Modernist Politics Now: Critiques of Liberalism The Stakes of the Political According to Carl Schmitt Chantal Mouffe 203 Sovereignty and Its Discontents William Rasch 213 Works Cited 225 Index 243 This page intentionally left blank List of Figures 4.1 Ludwig Karl Hilberseimer, “Berlin Development Project, Friedrichstadt District: Office and Commercial Buildings, Bird’s Eye Perspective View” 5.1 “Walter (Fred MacMurray) Shoots Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyk)” 5.2 “Struggling for the Gun, Lulu (Louise Brooks) Shoots Schoen (Fritz Kortner)” 108 158 159 This page intentionally left blank Acknowledgments This volume is based on papers presented at a conference organized in Spring 2002 by the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch at the University of Minnesota, titled “After the Decline of the ‘Master Narrative’: Rethinking Modernism. Art and Politics in Germany and Scandinavia, 1890–1950.” Generous funding for the conference was provided by the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch; the Center for German and European Studies; the Center for Scandinavian Studies; the CLA Scholarly Events Fund; the Humanities Institute; the European Studies Consortium; the Norwegian Ministry of Culture; and the Max Kade Foundation. We also want to thank the Ph.D. candidates at Minnesota who worked as research assistants for us: we thank Nicole Grewling for her work on the index and Brechtje Beuker for her research assistance, and we give special thanks to Alison Guenther-Pal, who first lent her invaluable organizational skills to the conference in 2002 and then went on to do such fine work for us as an editorial assistant for this volume. For the cover photo, Meister in Wachs (Masters in Wax, 1928/29) by Umbo (Otto Umbehr), we thank Phyllis Umbehr of the Gallery Kicken, Berlin, as well as Anna Kröger and Maria Makela. For assistance with the other illustrations we thank the Art Institute of Chicago, Sabine Hake, Linda SchulteSasse, and (once again) Alison Guenther-Pal. We also thank Maria Makela and Tom Haakenson for their valiant efforts on behalf of illustrations we were not able to use. This page intentionally left blank Notes on the Contributors Thomas O. Haakenson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He is the recipient of fellowships from the U.S. Fulbright Program and the Social Science Research Council. He is is working on his dissertation on visual culture in the early-twentieth-century Berlin. Sabine Hake is the Texas Chair of German Literature and Culture in the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of German National Cinema (2002, published in German in 2004 as Film in Deutschland: Geschichte und Geschichten ab 1895), Popular Cinema of the Third Reich (2001), The Cinema’s Third Machine: German Writings on Film 1907–1933 (1993), Passions and Deceptions: The Early Films of Ernst Lubitsch (1992), as well as of numerous articles on German film and Weimar culture. Her current book project deals with urban architecture and mass utopia in Weimar Berlin. Poul Houe is Professor of Scandinavian languages and literature at the University of Minnesota. He has written widely on the nineteenth- and twentieth- century Scandinavian and European literature, including such authors as Sören Kierkegaard, Georg Brandes, Henrik Ibsen, and August Strindberg; his next book, a collection of essays on Hans Christian Andersen, will appear in Danish this fall. A regular contributor of critiques on American and Scandinavian culture to Scandinavian newspapers and magazines, he has lectured at numerous conferences and universities in North America and Europe. Lutz Koepnick is Professor of German, Film and Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1994. He is the author of The Dark Mirror: German Cinema between Hitler and Hollywood (University of California Press, 2002); Walter Benjamin and the Aesthetics of Power (The University of Nebraska Press, 1999), for which he received the MLA’s Scaglione Prize for Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures in 2000; and of Nothungs xiv / notes on the contributors Modernität: Wagners Ring und die Poesie der Politik im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1994). His current book project is entitled, Framing Attention: Windows on Modern German Culture. He is also the coeditor of Sound Matters: Essays on the Acoustics of German Culture (Berghahn Books, 2004), of Caught by Politics: Hitler Exiles and American Visual Culture (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillian) and of Between the Local and the Global: Re-Visiting the Sites of Postwar German Cinema (forthcoming, University of Michigan Press). Maria Makela teaches Art History in the Department of Visual Studies at California College of the Arts. She has written articles and books widely on nineteenth- and twentieth- century German culture, and is the author of The Munich Secession. Art and Artists in Turn-of-the-Century Munich and coauthor of The Photomontages of Hannah Höch. She is currently coediting an anthology on Max Beckmann and researching a book on rayon. Patrizia C. McBride is Associate Professor of German at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her fields of interest include the relationship between literature, philosophy, and political theory, theories of modernity, literary modernism, and Austrian literature and culture. She is the author of The Void of Ethics: Robert Musil and the Experience of Modernity (Northwestern University Press, 2006) and of articles on J.M.R. Lenz, Adolf Loos, Jörg Haider, Hermann Broch, and Kurt Schwitters. Richard W. McCormick is Professor of German at the University of Minnesota, where his research and teaching are focused primarily on German cinema. He is the author of Politics of the Self: Feminism and the Postmodern in West German Literature and Film (Princeton University Press, 1991) and Gender and Sexuality in Weimar Modernity: Film, Literature, and “New Objectivity” (Palgrave, 2001); he coedited the anthologies Gender and German Cinema: Feminist Interventions (Berg, 1993) and German Essays on Film (Continuum, 2004). Andreas Michel is Associate Professor of German and European Studies at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. His research focus is on Modern European Intellectual History. His publications include essays on aesthetic modernism, in particular on Carl Einstein, postmodernism, and the philosophy of technology. Chantal Mouffe is Professor of Political Theory at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in London. She has taught and researched in many universities in Europe, North America, and South America and is a member of the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. She is the editor of Gramsci and Marxist Theory (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), Dimensions of Radical Democracy. Pluralism, Citizenship, Community notes on the contributors / xv (Verso, 1992) Deconstruction and Pragmatism (Routledge, 1996) and The Challenge of Carl Schmitt (Verso, 1999); the coauthor, with Ernesto Laclau, of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (Verso, 1985) and the author of The Return of the Political (Verso, 1993), The Democratic Paradox (Verso, 2000), and On the Political (Routledge, 2005). Carl Niekerk is Associate Professor of German at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is a specialist in modern German literature and culture, and is currently working on a book-length manuscript titled “Reading Mahler: About the Literature, Philosophy, and Paintings in Mahler’s Music.” William Rasch is Professor and Chair of the Department of Germanic Studies at Indiana University. He is the author of Niklas Luhmann’s Modernity: The Paradoxes of Differentiation and Sovereignty and Its Discontents: On the Primacy of Conflict and the Structure of the Political (translated into German as Konflikt als Beruf: Die Grenzen des Politischen). He has edited a collection of essays by Luhmann called Theories of Distinction: Redescribing the Descriptions of Modernity and is coeditor (with Wilfried Wilms) of a volume of critical essays called Bombs Away: Representing the Air War over Europe and Japan. Matthew Rohn is Associate Professor of Art History at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. Author of Visual Dynamics in Jackson Pollock’s Abstractions and contributing author to the The Prints of Frank Stella, a Catalogue Raisonné 1967–1982, Rohn has written a variety of articles on modern art, the history of modern art criticism and the intellectual history of American modern culture. Nils Roll-Hansen is Professor of History and the Philosophy of Science in the Department of Philosophy, the History of Ideas and Art, and Classical Languages at the University of Oslo. His fields of interest include history and the philosophy of biology. He has published works on the history of classical genetics, eugenics, plant breeding, and environmental science, as well as on the interaction of science and politics and on reductionism in biology. He is a co-editor with Gunnar Broberg of Eugenics and the Modern State (1997), and the author of The Lysenko Effect: The Politics of Science (2005). Linda Schulte-Sasse is Professor of German Studies at Macalester College. Her research interests include cinema of the Third Reich, American political discourses, and horror cinema. She is author of Entertaining the Third Reich: Illusions of Nazi Cinema (Duke University Press, 1996), and is completing a monograph on Dario Argento. xvi / notes on the contributors Janet Ward is Associate Professor of History at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She researches and teaches urban studies, visual culture, European modernity, memory studies, and Holocaust representation. Her book, Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany, was published in 2001 with the University of California Press. Her current book project is entitled Berlin Borders: Building the Post-Wall Metropolis. Marc A. Weiner is Professor of Germanic Studies, Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature, Communication and Culture (Film Studies), and Cultural Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. His interests include nineteenth- and early-twentieth -century literary and cultural studies of Europe; German and Austrian music; German intellectual history; the Frankfurt School; histories of racial and sexual iconography; GermanJewish relations; Fin-de-Siècle Vienna; and the German film. Recent Publications include: Antisemitische Fantasien: Die Musikdramen Richard Wagners Trans. Henning Thies (Berlin, Henschel Verlag, 2000.) German translation of Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska P, 1997) (winner of the Eugen F. Kayden national book award for best book in the humanities); “Weimar Film, Hollywood Opera: German Cultural History and Modern American Practice,” The Harold Jantz Memorial Lecture (Oberlin, Oberlin College P, 2001); “Why Does Hollywood Like Opera?” In between Opera and Cinema, edited by Jeongwon Joe and Rose Theresa (New York: Garland, 2001), 75–91; “Über Wagner sprechen: Ideologie und Methodenstreit.” In Richard Wagner im dritten Reich, edited by Jörn Rüsen and Saul Friedländer (Munich, Beck, 2000), 339–59; “In Search of Politics and Music.” Music and Letters 81, no.1 (February 2000): 65–72; “Opera and the Discourse of Decadence: From Wagner to AIDS.” In Perennial Decay: The Aesthetics and Politics of Decadence in the Modern Era, edited by Liz Constable, Dennis Denhishoff, and Matthew Potolsky (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 119–41. Monika Zagar is Associate Professor of Scandinavian at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities where she lectures on a variety of subjects within the field of Scandinavian literature and culture. She has a Ph.D. in Scandinavian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She has published a number of articles on various authors as well as a book on Dag Solstad: Ideological Clowns: Dag Solstad – From Modernism to Politics (2002). She has served on the editorial board for the Encylopedia of Contemporary Scandinavia; currently she is writing a book on Knut Hamsun. Introduction: The Future’s Past—Modernism, Critique, and the Political Patrizia C. McBride The story of how modernism came under fire from postmodern aesthetic practices in the 1960s and 1970s has often been told. At stake was the possibility of redefining the critical and political potential of art beyond categories that had governed aesthetic discourse for centuries. These included the aesthetic concepts of autonomy, representation, temporality, and narrativity, as well as epistemological categories such as a stable self and self-transparent consciousness, linear time and teleological history, or universal morality and self-determining reason. The first wave of critics that read the rise of new artistic and philosophical discourses in Europe and North America as evidence of the end of modernity and the exhaustion of modernism soon found itself faced with intractable conceptual and methodological problems, however. Indeed, early endeavors to define postmodernism in contradistinction to modernism foundered on the conspicuous persistence of modernist concerns in postmodern art and literature. As it soon became clear, the attempt to demarcate epochal caesurae—postmodernism versus modernism, postmodernity versus modernity—remained caught in modes of temporalization and categorization that reproduced the problem rather than offering a solution. Perhaps the most glaring deficit of these early attempts was their failure to grasp the most fruitful tendency within postmodern thought, namely, its paradoxical sense of continuity and rupture with regard to the past; in particular, with regard to its modernist past.1 In briefly revisiting this (hi)story, I offer a partial account of the ways in which the postmodern debates fostered an expanded understanding of art’s critical potential. What interests me most in this endeavor is the possibility of translating the heightened sensitivity of postmodernism to historical continuity and rupture into a springboard for redefining the critical 2 / patrizia c. mcbride impetus of art in our day. My admittedly selective discussion of a specific set of philosophical and aesthetic issues is not intended to provide a comprehensive account of the postmodern debates, but rather to stake out a number of questions that suggest the continued relevance of the modernist constellation for our day. The critical impulse of modernism has been traditionally located in its self-understanding as a critique of modernity. Modernity in this context is broadly defined as a confluence of social and economic processes harnessed by an ideology of progress, secularization, and emancipation, whose mature formulation surfaced in the Enlightenment. According to this narrative, modernity is haunted by an acute sense of crisis, which grows out of the awareness that the modern period had conspicuously strayed from the goals and values that secured its legitimation. It is this crisis that modernism articulates. This account portrays modernism as the aesthetic and cultural sensibility that castigated modernity for its failure to redeem its highest promises, namely, emancipation, justice, and economic equality. This flattering conceptualization of a recurrent modernist self-stylization is complicated by several blind spots, however. According to Jean-François Lyotard, modernism registered the epochal transformation in Western practices of knowledge, which dispensed with the external legitimation of traditional master-narratives—the life of the spirit as grasped by speculative reason or the emancipation of a humanity endowed with inalienable rights. Yet it did so in a nostalgic fashion, and this is what sets it apart from postmodernism. In other words, according to Lyotard, the limitation for modernism lies in the fact that its critique becomes mingled with a nostalgia for what is (about to be) lost, a desire for what it is impelled to reject as impossible (79–81). Other postmodernist critiques, informed by the perspectives of feminism, queer theory, or postcolonial studies, have offered their own commentaries on this nostalgia, noting how it often fed into the modernists’ own generalizing and conspicuously undiscriminating master-narratives. In claiming to give voice to the plights of the “modern subject” threatened by the logic of modernization, for instance, modernists often did little more than recount the alienation of white, male, bourgeois subjectivity, unwittingly exposing its troubling proclivity to mistake itself for the default, and thus universal prototype of humanity.2 This is not the place to rehearse the long list of criticisms of which modernism became a target and that, to be fair, often constituted a repudiation not of the modernist tradition per se, but rather of the domesticated and highly selective version of high modernism that scholars in the United States and Germany elevated to a safe cultural norm in order to buttress the deeply conservative academic and cultural environment of the 1950s and 1960s. Suffice it to say that critics generally refrained from concluding that the future’s past / 3 such blind spots irremediably tainted the critical impulse of modernism. After all, this conclusion would have flown in the face of the series of modernist returns within postmodern critical practices. For the more attentive observers the question rather became how to negotiate the historical caesura symptomatically expressed in the postmodern debates. At stake was the perceived need to (re)define the critical and political potential of art in the years spanning the 1970s to the mid 1980s, when several countries in Western Europe witnessed the failure of the student movement and its coda of terrorism and disenchantment, which were accompanied by the conservative retrenchments of the Reagan-Thatcher era. As Andreas Huyssen perceptively put it in an important essay on postmodernism, “in the age of late capitalism, [the crisis of modernism] is a new crisis of art’s relationship to society.”3 Huyssen’s aim in this essay was not so much to defend modernism as to rescue postmodernism from the charge of being apolitical or, worse yet, affirmative of a status quo defined by the unholy alliance of political neoconservatism and multinational capitalism. If postmodernism looked arbitrary or light-weight to some contemporary critics, he maintained, this was because it was measured against criteria of critical engagement schooled on the most austere version of high modernism and formulated at times of extreme crisis (totalitarianism as the backdrop for Adorno’s high modernism and Lukács’ realism, the Cold War for Clement Greenberg’s and the New Critics’ version of high modernism) (Huyssen, Great Divide 197). These criteria were no longer adequate for evaluating the critical potential of art in the1980s because the critical interventions of postmodernism unfolded in a field of ambivalent and multiply coded meanings that could not be grasped by means of the dichotomizing categories forged on the “classical accounts of modernism,” namely, “progress vs. reaction, left vs. right, present vs. past, modernism vs. realism, abstraction vs. representation, avant-garde vs. Kitsch” (Huyssen, Great Divide 217). As Huyssen added in a later essay cowritten with David Bathrick, these neat polarities were not at all inherent in the modernist tradition they sought to describe, but rather represented highly selective categories deployed in the postwar period to contain the heterogeneity of modernist practices and thereby purge them of their ambivalence. The result was a sanitized, politically tenable, and morally exemplary version of high modernism. Huyssen’s achievement lies in having shown that the presumably monolithic discourse of modernism in Germany and the United States was a projection of conservative critics and of a specific historical constellation in the immediate postwar period and in having highlighted the plurality of genealogies that make up the modernist tradition. If the postmodern debates marked the erosion of the categories traditionally deployed in describing the critical interventions of modernism and postmodernism 4 / patrizia c. mcbride alike, then the end of the Cold War and the ensuing radicalization of fundamentalisms of various kinds dealt established discourses on the critical role of the artist and the intellectual a further blow, for they produced a weakening of the very categories that had sustained Cold War political discourse: liberalism, democracy, rational consensus, equality, and human rights. In analyzing these changes in unified Germany, Huyssen has noted that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the process of unification marked “the end of the unquestioned role in West German intellectual life of the leftliberal consensus” (Twilight Memories 45). At the same time, they helped to test the limits of distinctions such as left and right, progressive and conservative, and democracy and illiberalism. In the immediate aftermath of 1989, many of the critical interventions of intellectuals and artists concerning Germany’s unification and its new role in the international arena exposed the ideological parochialism and historical myopia of traditional intellectual discourse, revealing the need for a “redefinition of the role of intellectuals, writers, and artists in the new Germany” (Huyssen, Twilight Memories 42). This redefinition is underway, not only in Germany, but also throughout Europe and North America. One may well argue that established aesthetic concepts, cultural norms, and the very categories of classical political discourse have become more porous at the beginning of a new millennium marked by the complex interplay of political regionalisms and economic globalization. Given this situation, what can a rereading of modernism offer us today and how should one approach this task? At issue is the need for an analytical framework suited for articulating the perception of both unsettling proximity and utter remoteness that modernism evokes as a circumscribed constellation of aesthetic and philosophical issues—the dispersion of subjectivity and the crisis of artistic expression, the differentiation of life spheres and the relativization of structures of knowledge, the instability of the real and the contingency of the ethical. These concerns are both intimately connected to contemporary debates, irrevocably cut off from our present by a series of historical caesurae nested in the folds of interlocking political, economic, social, and technological developments. It is precisely this befuddling sense of modernism’s concomitant closeness and remoteness that seems to defy all attempts at portraying its relation to our contemporary perspective in terms of a linear sequence of discrete historical phenomena. But if modernism appears both irreducibly past and tremendously present, what is the analytical value of this observation and how is one to translate it into productive categories of analysis? Hal Foster has confronted this issue head-on in his investigation of the relation between the historical avant-garde and the neo–avant-garde movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Writing ten years after Huyssen’s essay on the future’s past / 5 postmodernism, Foster is also intent on (re)defining the critical potential of art in a “post-age” that finds itself at a loss as it tries to discriminate between genuine aesthetic innovation and effect-seeking “anything goes,” between selfless artistic engagement and self-enamored stylization, between ironic critique of art’s commodification and opportunistic exploitation of an overheated art market. Starting from Peter Bürger’s momentous conceptualization of avant-garde art, Foster takes issue with the teleological notions of time and historical unfolding that prompted Bürger to view the historical avant-garde as the sole bearer of a critical and aesthetic project, which the neo–avant-garde could only ape and betray. Freud’s concept of Nachträglichkeit, or deferred action, provides Foster with a tool for productively complicating the linearity of Bürger’s account. Drawing on Lacan’s reading of Freud, Foster likens history to the structure of subjectivity as “a relay of anticipations and reconstructions of traumatic events” (Return 29). In this model, traumatic events are not endowed with fixed meanings that unfold chronologically from the point of occurrence. Rather, the structure of trauma is such that it requires other, later events to serve as triggers for a resurfacing of the traumatic event. It is this process of repeated resurfacing that plays out as trauma. To the extent that trauma is constitutive for the structure of subjectivity, this complex temporal interplay makes up the very fabric of the subject. In Foster’s words, “one event is only registered through another that recodes it; we come to be who we are only in deferred action (Nachträglichkeit)” (Return 29). The appeal of reading history in terms of traumatic subjectivity lies for Foster in the possibility of overcoming “any simple schema of before and after, cause and effect, origin and repetition” (Return 29). There is no sense of an origin or inception of meaning; rather, meaning is assigned and reassigned in a complex exchange among different temporal triggers. What emerges when one extends this temporal structure to the relations between the historical and the neo avant-gardes is “a complex relation of anticipation and reconstruction” (Foster, Return 13). This interplay allows Foster to amend Bürger’s thesis about the presumably fraudulent practices of the neo–avant-garde. Far from seeing the neo–avant-garde as opportunistically mimicking its historical forerunner, this perspective portrays it as that “which comprehends and enacts” the project of the historical avant-garde (Foster, Return 20)—a comprehension and enaction that have nothing to do with closure and completion, or with the better vision presumably gained in hindsight. “The avant-garde returns from the future” (Foster, Return 29): this oxymoron well captures the paradoxical temporality entailed in the relation of mutual implication Foster is describing. For the anticipation that the historical avant-garde represents is itself part of the backward projection (or reconstruction) operated by the neo–avant-garde. 6 / patrizia c. mcbride Thus Foster’s model makes it possible to grasp the relation between the two “objects” in a temporally open-ended, nonhierarchical fashion, which takes into account the critical investment of the observer whose observations establish this very relation. If the aesthetic and critical practices at the onset of the twentieth century and in the aftermath of World War II can illuminate each other outside of any relation of cause and effect or origin and derivation, it is because, in keeping with the analogy of trauma, they are activated by analogous triggers. I am interested in examining what it might mean to “reconstruct the modernist past” from today’s vantage point, or, to paraphrase another of Foster’s formulations, to what extent we can argue that “modernism returns from the future.” The issue is whether there is something like a traumatic constellation that might prompt us to appropriate the heterogeneous tradition of modernism as a productive symptom of our day in a self-aware act of temporal inversion. I do not intend to offer yet another metanarrative, the likes of which were often simultaneously longed for and undermined within the modernist tradition, but I argue that what returns from “our future” in the modernist constellation is an awareness about the insufficiencies of established ways of thinking the human, of conceptualizing individual and collective experience, as well as an anxiety about the disastrous effects that could ensue if the admittedly inadequate categories currently being deployed were to be dismissed. This anxiety arises from confrontation with a series of historical traumas, of events that defy the experiential and interpretive categories available to individuals and collectives: World War I and the rise of totalitarianism for European modernism; the war in the Balkans, the destruction of the World Trade Center, or the genocides perpetrated in Africa in full view of a complacent international community for our present. In pointing to a traumatic constellation in which both the modernists and our present possibly share, my intention is not to draw historical parallels between distinct sets of horrific events, much less learn edifying lessons from the past. Rather I am concerned with acknowledging that modernism first registered the utter bankruptcy of a discourse on the human that had harnessed Western culture for centuries and that it openly confronted the challenges, the risks, and the temptations entailed in moving beyond this discourse. I believe that our time faces challenges not unlike those that shaped the modernist constellation. These challenges are at the heart of the temporal interplay of anticipation and reconstruction that allows us to claim that modernism returns from the future. The issue then becomes understanding the nature of this return and how it interacts with our present. Walter Benjamin’s essay “Experience and Poverty” represents a paradigmatic example for the modernist discourse to which I am referring and can the future’s past / 7 help specify the significance of its return for the twenty-first century. Written in 1933, the essay offers itself as a commentary on an epoch ominously framed by two historical cataclysms in Germany, namely, the carnage of World War I and the affirmation of National Socialism. Benjamin starts by noting how, at the onset of the twentieth century, technology and its applications in all realms of life so deeply transformed individual and collective existence that a radical disconnect began separating everyday experience from customary ways of making sense of it. “We have given up one portion of the human heritage after another” (“Experience” 735), Benjamin remarks, for this heritage appears to be of little use in dealing with the present; indeed, received modes of interpreting existence seem utterly obsolete. The sentiment voiced by Benjamin can easily be fitted into a discourse concerning the erosion of Western cultural and metaphysical signposts—the self, the community of men, reason, history, and freedom—that reaches back to Nietzsche. Yet Benjamin’s text fails to reinforce the nostalgia for lost points of reference that marks, for instance, the discourse of cultural pessimism of contemporaries like Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, or Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The impossibility of drawing on inherited interpretive categories for understanding experience has resulted in an utter “poverty of experience,” Benjamin concedes, but this is not as negative a condition as the formulation seems to suggest. In fact, this experiential paucity inspired contemporaries such as Adolf Loos, Paul Klee, Paul Scheerbart, and Cubist painters to reject “the traditional, solemn, noble image of man festooned with all the sacrificial offerings of the past” and to embrace a radical new vision freed from good old humanist crutches such as “humanlikeness” (Benjamin, “Experience” 733). The artificial language in which these artists communicate enables them to imagine and shape a future that is not held hostage by inherited experiential modes. Key to the efforts of the artists Benjamin celebrates is a “new, positive concept of barbarism,” which they have embraced. The barbarian is an individual who lacks the interpretive categories that would allow him to turn his bare existence into meaningful experience. This poverty of experience forces him “to start from scratch [. . .], to begin with a little and build up further, looking neither left nor right” (Benjamin, “Experience” 732). This enterprise appears at once exhilarating and frightening, for also inscribed in the term “barbarian” is an awareness of the violence and disruption that could be unleashed by such an undertaking. For the barbarian stands outside civilization as its inassimilable other. His relation to civilization is marked by an antagonism lined with potential violence. It is nonetheless apparent that for Benjamin the poverty of experience that characterizes his age leaves no choice but to explore barbarism. There is no point in instilling new life into 8 / patrizia c. mcbride the moribund ideas of experience and humanity that have historically underpinned the civilization of the West, for those ideas have been discredited by the disruption of World War I. Unfolding further the metaphor of the barbarian, one can argue that Benjamin’s text registers the degree to which Western civilization had already become porous to the barbarian “outside” against which it had defined itself for centuries—the contemporary violence of the National Socialist regime constituting an ominous seal to this process. Within this frame, Benjamin’s positive concept of barbarism points to the need for boldly investigating the “outside” to current notions of humanity—an outside that had already powerfully infiltrated modern life—in order to imagine more adequate modes of individual and collective experience. One can argue that in the contemporary Western world the sense of rupture described by Benjamin is more acute than ever. If the end of the Cold War prompted early enthusiasts to prophesy the imminent triumph of the Western model of liberal democracy and of its underlying vision of enlightened and compassionate humanity,4 one can claim that the discrepancy between this hopeful vision and the reality of resurgent religious, ethnic, and national fundamentalisms on the old continent and elsewhere has become ever more conspicuous at the dawn of the twenty-first century. For many, this awareness is compounded by the belief that the post–Cold War world of economic globalization and information revolution is being threatened by a presumably obstreperous and insufficiently enlightened Islam. I would like to suggest that the traumatic horizon we share with modernism might be found precisely in this sense of disconnect, as well as in the perception of an imperative to inspect the “barbarian” outside to current notions of individual and collective experience. In this perception fear about the ruinous consequences that might ensue if one were to abandon old constructs and beliefs holds the balance with awareness that failure to scrutinize the old notions is already producing calamitous effects. Benjamin’s positive notion of barbarism recalls the radical interrogation that is at the heart of the ethos championed by Michel Foucault in “What is Enlightenment?” Foucault’s discussion is relevant in this context because it outlines the two ends of a field of tension in which the Western discourse on the human has unfolded at least since the eighteenth century. On the one hand there is the Enlightenment ethos of modernity, an attitude driven by an exhilarating critique of the historical “limits that are imposed on us” and by the “experiment with the possibility of going beyond them” (Foucault, Reader 50). At issue is a constant reinvention of the parameters of what it means to be human whose quintessentially modern site is art, as Foucault maintains in pointing to Baudelaire’s heroic self-stylization. At the other end of the spectrum there is a desire, sometimes as strong as a the future’s past / 9 compulsion, to ground this critique in some stable notions of “man” or the community of “men,”5 which in the West has issued in various forms of humanism. Foucault is adamant about not conflating the two. Humanism, he notes, is a variable set of themes and values that “has always been obliged to lean on certain conceptions of man borrowed from religion, science, or politics.” Unlike the inherently self-transcending reflection that defines the Enlightenment, humanism operates within a circular field of ideological legitimation, for it “serves to color and to justify the conceptions of man to which it is, after all, obliged to take recourse” (Foucault, Reader 44). That is to say, the Enlightenment ideal of radical interrogation of historical practices and constructs is antithetical to the circular operation of ideological stabilization through which humanism at once borrows from and lends legitimation to presumably desirable notions of the human. Taking Foucault’s remarks to their logical conclusion, one could argue that the ethos of the Enlightenment is of necessity a critique of humanism anytime the advantages of the stable constructs humanism can provide are exceeded by their disadvantages—for instance, their inability to offer a viable framework for interpreting experience, which is at the heart of Benjamin’s dispute with late-nineteenth-century humanism. And yet the restraint with which Foucault addresses the issue of humanism in this text is remarkable for a thinker who had explored it time and again as a powerful tool of subjugation in his genealogical inquiries into entwinement of discourse, knowledge, and power in Western culture. While it is clear that his sympathies here lie with the imaginative critique Foucault associates with the Enlightenment, his appeal for an investigation of the historical links between humanism and Enlightenment suggests that he is nonetheless inclined to grant humanism a legitimate role in the field of tension that has historically defined the Western discourse on the human. If Foucault is willing to come to terms with humanism, it is because humanism both expresses and fulfills a basic need for ideological stabilization, for providing a shared framework for individual and collective experience. At the same time, the ethos of the Enlightenment is needed to curb the humanist propensity for disguising a contingent, historical model of the human in terms of essential, universal, suprahistorical truths. Thus the modern condition Foucault probingly describes in his praise of the Enlightenment appears founded in a paradox. On the one hand there is the need for a stable framework of desirable humanness to ground meaningful action and political life; on the other hand there is the imperative to constantly scrutinize the available paradigm(s) of desirable humanity in order to allow for their outside to gain expression and for competing models to surface. Enlightenment emerges in this context as the historical inquiry into the possibility of a critique that retains its claim to ground political action while 10 / patrizia c. mcbride drawing on models of humanness that are admittedly time-bound, contingent, and mutually competing.6 The quest that Benjamin saw triggered by the contemporary disconnect between experience and available models of interpretation becomes for Foucault the condition of possibility for modernity’s Enlightenment. Thus, when the modernist Baudelaire proposes a notion of beauty consigned to the ability to see that the “lasting” is not beyond or behind the “ephemeral,” it is rather nested deep inside it: what is at stake for Foucault is not just a new historical concept of the beautiful, but rather the ability of art to embody the ethos of modernity and to stake out a field of meaningful action for the present (Foucault, Reader 39–42). The operation of temporal inversion through which modernism returns from the future, I argue, enables the contemporary critic to rethink the familiar trope of a “death of the subject” so as to also view it as the collapse of the self-assured subjectivity of nineteenth-century humanism. The relevance of the modernist ethos for the current century lies in its difficult negotiation of humanist stabilization and Enlightenment critique. This negotiation offers a broad framework for the writings collected in this volume, which are based on papers presented at a conference held by the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch at the University of Minnesota in 2002. The cultural and geographical focus for the volume lies in Northern Europe, with a special emphasis on Germany and Scandinavia. Section one is dedicated to the politics of music in the tension between high and popular culture. Marc Weiner’s contribution explores the anxieties underlying the binary oppositions that structure the modernist perception of music. In focusing on the ultraconservative composer Hans Pfitzner, Weiner analyzes his best known opera, Palestrina, as expressing Pfitzner’s anxieties about the instabilities of these binaries, especially the one opposing written and performed text. Such anxieties, Weiner suggests, cannot be simply accounted for in terms of Pfitzner’s extreme right-wing ideology, but rather cut across the political spectrum of the modernist reflection on music. In further complicating the political assessment of the modernist musical imagination, Weiner stresses that Pfitzner’s aesthetic practice often contradicts the fears expressed in his theoretical work, thus mitigating the very binaries he set out to reinforce. Carl Niekerk’s chapter examines Gustav Mahler’s musical practice from the perspective of a complex, cultural border crossing. In drawing on the Dutch reception of the composer at the beginning of the twentieth century, Niekerk reconstructs Mahler’s paradoxical articulation of German and Jewish identities through such sources as Richard Wagner’s music and Julius Langbehn’s Rembrandt as Educator. The writings in section two articulate the multiple intersections of the discourses on art, culture, and race that negotiated the humanist legacy in Scandinavia. Poul Houe examines the 1882 novel Germanernes Lærling (GL; the future’s past / 11 The Teutons’ Apprentice) by Danish writer Karl Gjellerup as paradigmatic for the aporias of the modernist movement in Nordic literature. Houe traces Gjellerup’s move away from naturalism and embrace of a secularized religiosity inflected with neo-Romantic mysticism as symptoms of a humanist resistance to the modern movement. Gjellerup’s ambivalent stance, so Houe, succeeded in problematizing both the discourse of humanism and the practice of modernism. Along similar lines, Monika Zagar reads Knut Hamsun’s novel Ringen sluttet (The Ring is Closed, 1936) as expressing the predicament of humanist subjectivity in modernity. As Zagar argues, the novel casts its protagonist Abel Brodersen in the deeply oxymoronic and racially overdetermined position of the “white negro” to at once denounce the modern domestication of eccentric humanity and express modernity’s impossible quest for authenticity. Nils Roll-Hansen reconstructs the intellectual and scientific roots of the eugenics movement in Scandinavia through a comparison with Nazi Germany. In focusing on the practice of sterilization, Roll-Hansen traces the complex relation between science, technology, and politics in pre– and post–World War II Scandinavia in order to offer a meditation on the political role of science in our day. Section three examines the modernist negotiation of the human in the fields of the life sciences and technology. Andreas Michel questions received wisdom on the illiberal turn taken by German scientific discourse in the first decades of the twentieth century. In examining the cultural writings of German engineers, Michel shows how their attempt at reconciling technology and culture did not always lend credit to the theory of a fascist-leaning, “reactionary modernism,” that Jeffrey Herf articulated in his influential study. Thomas Haakenson focuses on the category of “immediate visual perception” articulated within the life sciences in late-nineteenth-century Germany and inscribed in the organization of Rudolf Virchow’s pathbreaking Museum of Medical Pathology in Berlin. According to Haakenson, this discourse forms a backdrop for Hannah Höch’s photomontages, which visually turned the new scientific standard of perception on its head in order to critique its surreptitious domestication of the human. Section four focuses on the modernist contribution to architecture and urban planning. Sabine Hake undertakes a reevaluation of the utopian imaginary of the architectural avant-garde by drawing on Ludwig Hilberseimer’s 1928 proposal for an office and business complex in Berlin’s Friedrichstadt. According to Hake, Hilberseimer’s never-realized, hyper rationalistic design belies a fear of the chaotic space of the city, while at the same time exemplifying the avant-garde’s propensity for aesthetic solutions that suppressed the socioeconomic and cultural divisions of Weimar Germany. Janet Ward also scrutinizes the visual imaginary of the architectural avant-garde to raise the question about the democratic potential of urban architecture in our day. In 12 / patrizia c. mcbride her chapter, the multicoded trope of the tower of Babel serves as a catalyst for reflections on the expressionist tower, the urban skyscraper, and the missing Twin Tower silhouette of the World Trade Center. Sections five and six are dedicated to the exploration of visual culture, especially film and painting. Maria Makela probes the political valences of the postexpressionist, representational visual styles associated with New Objectivity. Makela pleads for an analysis that refrains from typecasting the style and its practitioners as either left or right wing. As she argues, New Objectivity “meant different things at different times even within the career of a single artist,” as demonstrated by Rudolf Schlichter’s tortuous trajectory from left-wing intellectual to Nazi sympathizer to Nazi critic. Richard McCormick’s section sets out to question conventional wisdom regarding the expressionist roots of the American film noir. In reviewing the American career of three prominent émigré directors, Fritz Lang, Georg Pabst, and Billy Wilder, McCormick shows how their influence on Hollywood’s film noir owes more to the sardonic realism of New Objectivity than to the lateRomantic irrationalism commonly associated with expressionism. Matthew Rohn examines the post–World War II reception of German modernism through the lens of the most influential art critic in the United States, Clement Greenberg. Rohn reconstructs the early Cold War framework that led Greenberg to revise his early endorsement of Germanic modernist painting in favor of a French modernism untainted by National Socialism and Marxism. Lutz Koepnick’s chapter examines the architecture of Hitler’s Alpine retreat at Berghof as emblematic for the paradoxical principle governing much of National Socialist visual culture, namely, its endeavor to engage the modern so as to escape from it. As Koepnick shows, the cinematic, visual space construed by the Berghof deploys radical strategies of spatial modernization in order to neutralize “the multiplicity of modern embodied vision” and “to lodge seductive equations of power and sight directly in the beholders’ senses.” In the final section, Koepnick discusses two installations by Marcel Odenbach, which offer a keen commentary on the manipulation of sight performed by the architecture of the Berghof. Linda Schulte-Sasse investigates the symbolic doubling of art and life within the gender economy of two Nazi feature films, Venus Before the Court (1941) and Freed Hands (1939). While both movies ostensibly celebrate high art and modern patriarchy as true paths to women’s liberation, this very message is undercut by the low-brow, kitschy nature of the entertainment film favored by the German film industry in the Third Reich, as it is explicitly foregrounded by the farcical elements of the 1939 movie. The writings in the final section interrogate the potential for our day of the critique of liberalism articulated by the prominent political theorist and Nazi ideologue Carl Schmitt. Chantal Mouffe draws on Schmitt to analyze the future’s past / 13 the limits of the Western model of liberal democracy. The liberal postulates of rational communication and consensus, so Mouffe’s Schmittian argument, fail to grant expression to the existential antagonisms that underlie political life. According to Mouffe, the resurgent fundamentalisms of the post–Cold War period can be seen as the radicalization of antagonisms, which liberalism invisibilizes rather than confronting. Finally, William Rasch reconstructs Schmitt’s polemics against the liberal argument through which the United States sought to legitimize its newly gained hegemony in the world politics of the interwar period. Rasch shows how Schmitt’s main charge, according to which liberalism’s celebrated rule of law does not overcome, but rather surreptitiously naturalizes the preliberal concept of sovereignty, serves well to articulate the limits of the liberal claims that continue to authorize U.S. foreign policy today. Notes 1. For an account of the postmodern debates in aesthetics, philosophy, and social theory, see Calinescu 1987; Huyssen 1986; Bauman 1991; and Sheppard 2000. For attempts at delimiting postmodernist from modernist practices see Ihab Hassan’s and Umberto Eco’s typological models; for accounts that see in postmodernism not a qualitative change, but rather a radicalization of modernist concerns and practices, Lyotard, “Answering the Question: What Is Postmodernism” (in The Postmodern Condition) is instructive. See also Art Berman’s account of modernism as modernity’s bad consciousness in chapter one of his Preface to Modernism. As Richard Sheppard has noted, the great accomplishment of the postmodern debates lies in having established a connection between modernism as an aesthetic sensibility and modernity as a social and economic process, and in having raised anew the question of the critical role of art in modernity. Pivotal essays in this regard were Jürgen Habermas’ “Modernity Versus Postmodernity” (1980; trans. 1981) and Fredric Jameson’s “Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” (1984; reprinted in Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism). 2. See the arguments made by Linda Hutcheon in The Politics of Postmodernism. 3. See Huyssen’s essay “Mapping the Postmodern,” from 1984, reprinted in After the Great Divide 178–221, here 218. 4. See for instance Francis Fukujama’s The End of History. 5. I purposely retain the gendered formulation deployed by Foucault as symptomatic of the mechanisms of exclusion that inform the generalizing and universalizing labels of humanism. 6. As Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow have argued, in his reading of Kant Foucault pursued a notion of maturity—that is, a model of humanness worth striving for— that is no longer grounded in presumably atemporal laws and metaphysical truths about the human, but instead derives its legitimation precisely from self-referential reflection on its historicity and contingency. Dreyfus and Rabinow 118. This page intentionally left blank Section I High, Low, and Other: The Politics of Music This page intentionally left blank Hans Pfitzner and the Anxiety of Nostalgic Modernism Marc A. Weiner The perception of sound unfolds in the modernist imagination across a trajectory of polar oppositions that are legacies of long-standing musical traditions. Already in the nineteenth century, Wagner’s juxtaposition of German versus non-German aesthetic practice formed a conceptual nexus, a structure of thought, that reappears in the works of Nietzsche, with its polarization of northern and southern art, and in the reflections on music in the writings of a host of celebrated German and Austrian authors of the early twentieth century, such as Hauptmann, Dauthendey, Schnitzler, Werfel, Hesse, and Thomas Mann, and of course in the critical reflections of Theodor Adorno. The perception of music through a conceptual structure that opposes one category against another by no means vanished as the Frankfurt School was superseded by its postmodernist followers, for Adorno’s polarizations find their structural parallel in the recent work of Peter Sloterdijk, who—in an essay entitled “Where are we when we hear music?” (Wo sind wir, wenn wir Musik hören?)—has argued that our entire musical experience can be segregated into two categories that are nonetheless intimately, dialectically related: into a kind of music that is outward-directed, recalling for Sloterdijk the post-Lapsarian experience of birth, and the kind of music that expresses a yearning for a return to stasis, to rest, to the fluidity of preconsciousness, or to the timeless tranquility of the womb: Prior to individuation, we hear in an anticipatory fashion—that is, fetal hearing anticipates the world as a noise- and sound-totality [Geräusch- und Klangtotalität], which is always in the process of developing; it listens ecstatically in the darkness toward the world of sound, usually oriented in a mundane or worldly fashion [meist weltwärts orientiert]. . . . After the formation of the subject, we hear backwards—the ear wants to undo the world as a noise-totality, longs to return to the archaic euphonious state of the pre-worldly interior, it activates the memory of a euphonic stillness-as-being 18 / marc a. weiner [Enstase], which accompanies us like an afterglow from Paradise. One could say that the individuated or unhappy ear strives inexorably from the real world back to a space of the inmost a-cosmic reminiscences. Understood in this way, music was always the connection between two tendencies, which created two dialectically related gestures. One leads out of a positive nothingness, out of the world-less, interior, uterus-familiar [aus dem Schoßhaften] toward the world into the manifestation, the open scene, the world arena—the other, out of the fullness, the dissonance, the overburdened back into the world-less, the free, the interiorized. The music of the coming-into-the-world is a Will to Power as sound, which emerges along the lines of a continuum from within and which desires itself like an irrepressible life gesture; the music of retreat, however, after the dissolution of the continuum, strives to return to the a-cosmic condition of hovering [in den akosmischen Schwebezustand], in which the damaged life, as an Unwill to Power, collects and heals itself (Sloterdijk, “Wo sind wir” 301; see also “Poetik der Entbindung” and “Die sokratische Maieutik”).1 This last observation brings to light something that I feel informs other oppositions in the modernist perception of sound as well, namely, an anxiety that helps to account for the rigidity of these polarized extremes. Just as the move out into the world is fraught with danger, so the desire for a return to the warmth of stasis may prove a utopian fantasy, something in danger of never being regained. Though this is seldom articulated as such, a good deal of the work on musical modernism implicitly concerns the psychological investment, the anxiety behind its pervasive polarized motifs of a loss of control and a recurrent nostalgia that typifies the modernist musical imagination. On the one hand, music emerges here as a sign of insurrectionary, libidinal forces usually associated with leftist politics (that is, “outward-directed music”; this is certainly how it appears in the works of Thomas Mann), and on the other, it can also be associated with something that is more familiar and more comforting, with the status quo and a longing for tradition, as something more conservative. Of course, this bifurcated model (juxtaposing interiority and stasis with exteriority and teleological development) is so simplistic as to prove ultimately difficult to apply to a host of aesthetic objects and projects in the modernist age, but nonetheless, if Sloterdijk is right, both the outward or future-oriented and the introspective or nostalgic trajectories of Western music are based on an originary cataclysmic event, one that scars the perception of music forever, and it is this repressed event that may help to account for the pervasive psychological investment in musical polarities that shows up repeatedly in this period. This perception of music as scarred transcends both its manifestation as an art perceived as volatile or threatening and one that functions as a hallmark of tradition. pfitzner and nostalgic modernism / 19 The work of Hans Pfitzner (1869–1949)—that most cantankerous of conservative musical modernists and in his day rivaled for the title of preeminent German composer only by Richard Strauss (Mahler-Werfel 25, 164)—constitutes an example of the modernist musical imagination affiliated not solely with music as a sign of leftist insurrectionary forces, but quite the opposite, with avowed indebtedness to venerated musical traditions that constitute for Pfitzner the longed-for status quo, the preLapsarian point of rest so threatened by the outward-directed forces of change in the modern world. The fact that Pfitzner’s fame was so extensive, and yet so temporally circumscribed, makes him a figure particularly revealing of his time.2 While his work is located at the far end of the right-wing of the political spectrum, it also reveals an anxiety that collapses the polarizations of musical modernism, and hence those found on both sides of the political experience. Pfitzner’s work, like that of his great model, Wagner, unfolds according to a cognitive system that views the world in terms of binary oppositions, so that a given aesthetic practice is defined for him by another kind of art that it rejects. The rigid, thematic oppositions in Pfitzner’s reflections on music that define the sociopolitical world of early-twentieth-century Germany are well known: left-wing foreigners, internationalists, Bolsheviks, and Jews form one wing of a cultural climate vilified by those with whom Pfitzner identifies: German nationalists faithful to—and longing for—the political hegemony and a set of values of the Wilhelminian Empire. These binarisms are informed by other tropes as well, such as the feminine versus the masculine, the popular versus the more esoteric, the public versus the private spheres, the masses versus the individual, the ephemeral versus the legitimate, and the insurrectionary versus the law-abiding citizen. Pfitzner abhors the influx into Germany in the postwar years of foreign cultural production—such as jazz, boxing, the circus, and film—and the experimental and innovative musical practices of the New Vienna School of Schönberg, Berg, and Webern, as well as that of his contemporaries Werner Egk, Carl Orff, Ernst Kåenek, and Ferruccio Busoni, all of them representing for him a disrespect for the proven superiority of German musical tradition manifested in the works of Beethoven, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Schumann, and above all Wagner, whose sole representative and legitimate heir Pfitzner believed himself to be (Adamy 41–85; Skouenborg 9–17; Weiner, Undertones 35–71). What interests me more is another binarism that has received far less attention in the recent discussion of Pfitzner, namely the opposition within his essays and music dramas of signifier and signified, of the material of representation and the transcendental or suprasensible realm to which it alludes—an opposition and a preoccupation that directly link Pfitzner to 20 / marc a. weiner Wagner and to the German idealist tradition—because that opposition makes clear the tremendous anxiety underlying virtually all of the other oppositions just mentioned, an anxiety that these rigid, polarized structures will collapse, thus making impossible a return to tradition as the guarantor of identity, of (to refer once again to Sloterdijk’s model) stasis as repose (examples of the discussion of Pfitzner within the last twenty-five years can be found in Adamy; Williamson; Vogel; and the 2001 special issue of The Musical Quarterly devoted to the composer). The opposition of music as conceptual form and sounding presence harbors within it a fear that the place of repose, the pre-Lapsarian point, the “afterglow from Paradise” that is necessarily superior to every specific, and therefore ephemeral quotidian experience, can never be perfectly achieved, leaving the conscious subject, the “unhappy ear” awash in the flow toward “the world arena.” Pfitzner was primarily concerned with what he believed to be the development of an irreverent, capricious, and willful approach to the performance, and especially the staging, of musical-dramatic works in the opera houses of early twentieth-century Germany, manifested most blatantly perhaps in the experimental stagings of the Kroll Oper in Berlin. In response to the changing cultural scene in early twentieth-century Europe, with its growing cosmopolitanism and experimentation, Pfitzner sought to establish guidelines for controlling the means by which an artwork could be interpreted, both by those who mediate its reception (such as directors and performers) and by the public at large. In his published writings from 1905 to 1929— Stage Tradition (Bühnentradition), The Futurist Danger (Futuristengefahr), The New Aesthetics of Musical Impotence (Die neue Ästhetik der musikalischen Impotenz), and above all in his lengthy aesthetic treatise Work and Performance (Werk und Wiedergabe)—part diatribe and part instruction manual in the art of stage production as faithful reproduction—Pfitzner argued for universally applicable, normative guidelines, or even rules, that would guarantee the superiority of German music, of music structurally based on an original idea (or Einfall), and of the execution of such music precisely as its composer had imagined it (cf. Behne; Ermen; Osthoff ). Virtually all of his polemical writing is based upon an anxiety concerning the written word and the written signs of musical notation, upon which he is dependent but views with great skepticism. Pfitzner’s dilemma is that, as an opera composer, he is dependent on the intervention of third parties to interpret and execute the written instructions of his works, and for that reason he opens Werk und Wiedergabe (1929) with a section on different genres distinguished by the degree to which they are subject to such mediation. He distinguishes between those works that rely on signs, or “Aufzeichnungen,” and those dependent on sensual representation, or “Sinnlichkeit.” He therefore places the visual arts in a category of works that requires no further pfitzner and nostalgic modernism / 21 mediation once completed, and he makes the same claim for written works as well. I would like to quote a passage from his discussion of literary works, because it reveals some remarkable assumptions regarding signification: In a written book, everything that is sensual is drawn into that which is rational. . . . For that reason this art is initially grasped through a cognitive activity, in this case through that of reading. This corresponds to looking at a painting or its figures; between creator and recipient there is no need of an intermediary link; one doesn’t require reproduction through a third party. (Pfitzner, Werk und Wiedergabe 4) In addition to the split between ratio and the corporeal—and with it the implied fear of sensuality—the passage is interesting because it shows that Pfitzner denigrates and disavows the mediating function of the written text, viewing it instead as a transparent and universally available phenomenon that circumvents or bypasses signification as mediation. Implicitly, the materiality of writing as signifier recedes in favor of its postulated capacity for transparency. Pfitzner relies on what he presents as an unequivocal property of the written sign, which allows for direct communication between the artist/creator/author and the recipient. Indeed, throughout the treatise the written word appears untroubled and privileged, the problem lying not with multiple possibilities of its interpretation, but with those who choose to disregard the written word because they believe they are not bound by the wishes of its author (whether librettist, composer, or both). Something of the sort was already implied in Pfitzner’s debate with the music critic Paul Bekker, who, in his popular book on Beethoven from 1911, had interpreted Beethoven’s works as conveying a series of “programs,” “images,” and “poetic ideas” that Bekker believed should be accessible to a wide and untrained audience. In Die neue Ästhetik der musikalischen Impotenz (1919), Pfitzner characteristically responded to Bekker as follows: He who does not understand that a Beethoven theme is to be enjoyed directly, as a world unto itself, indivisible, untranslatable, he who has a need to dissect, describe, or to interpret it, to chop it up into its component parts, . . . [that person] doesn’t know what music is. (Pfitzner, Die neue Ästhetik 155) (Italics added) The key here is the notion that meaning can and should be conveyed in a direct and apparently unmediated fashion that bypasses the processes of signification, and with them all the aesthetic practices associated for Pfitzner with the inferior vagaries of art in the modern public sphere. The entire 350-page argument of Werk und Wiedergabe, too, constitutes a diatribe against actors, singers, conductors, set designers, and directors who fail to follow the composer’s transparent credo. 22 / marc a. weiner And yet, Pfitzner’s theoretical reflections actually reveal a fear of the instability of extreme polarizations, for the vituperative affect of loss, violence, and impending annihilation everywhere apparent in his writings discloses a concern over the possibility that the binarisms upon which his view of aesthetic practices is based are in danger of collapsing. For while Werk und Wiedergabe argues for a fidelity to the written word tantamount to devotion, Pfitzner bases this argument on the vilified—because feared— distinction between sign and signified. Already in his polemical text Futuristengefahr (1917)—a debate with Ferruccio Busoni—anxiety over the instability of the sign is made clear when Pfitzner states: precisely because an exactitude, an absolute faithfulness is not possible, precisely for this reason we have a profound duty, indeed we might even call it the First Commandment of reproduction, to strive for faithfulness with all the strength we can muster. This Commandment appears to me to be artistically so self-evident that actually I would like it treated as a moral issue. (Pfitzner, Futuristengefahr 206) (Italics in the original) The anxiety at the heart of this passage is typical, and what is more, it reemerges not solely here and elsewhere in Pfitzner’s theoretical writings, but in his aesthetic practice as well. For while the work for which he is best remembered today, the “musical legend” Palestrina (1917) is most often associated with the theme of inspiration, it can also be interpreted in conjunction with Pfitzner’s theories regarding the veneration of the written word as a vehicle of authorial intention and his despair over the degree of its reliability—over what happens to the work in the afterlife of the finished composition. (It is no coincidence that the music drama emerged temporally contiguous with the Busoni polemic.) In this sense, the music drama is a cipher for the vagaries of aesthetic practice in the irreverent, volatile, and outwardly directed modern age. The nostalgia and despair at the heart of the work are discernible behind, and overwhelm, its many thematic polarizations. Palestrina depicts a moment of crisis in the life of the composer of the Counter Reformation, Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina, who is portrayed as the last representative of a vanishing and glorious tradition of sacred music, superceded and threatened by newer and inferior schools of composition (cf. Toller). In this respect, he is unabashedly a representative of Pfitzner as the last, and beleaguered, representative of a specifically German musical tradition overwhelmed by the fads of musical internationalism, jazz, and atonality in the modern age. The central plot device constitutes a decree from Pope Pius IV that, owing to new practices of polyphonic vocal writing that obscure the sacred text, all liturgical music since the Middle Ages will pfitzner and nostalgic modernism / 23 be burned, unless an exemplary mass can be produced that demonstrates that the word of God can be heard even in a polyphonic setting. Palestrina’s friend, Cardinal Borromeo, beseeches the composer to undertake this task, explaining that the “new [textual and musical] vagaries, monstrous to the ear” (Die neuen Irrungen, unhold dem Ohre) are eating away at the traditions that Palestrina reveres and represents (Pfitzner, Palestrina 12). Borromeo explains that in recent polyphonic compositions, new texts have been added to traditional sacred music, which, as he says, “makes the true text unintelligible” (Pfitzner, Palestrina 13). Such practice forms an allegory of bad Wiedergabe, making it clear that the status and life of the artwork following its composition is a mere postexistence, always in danger, and always inferior to the original and nostalgically privileged event of its creation. The new compositions, then, resemble the work of the modern-day directors Pfitzner so despised, with their willful and irreverent approach to the texts of musical-dramatic tradition. But Palestrina refuses to write the mass, and is then visited by the spirits of nine former composers, followed by a scene in which a chorus of angels dictates to him the exalted mass as Act I comes to a close. The moment of inspiration—which constitutes, ironically, a dramatic representation of unmediated art—is couched in musical themes that will later reappear in contexts important for an understanding of the work’s portrayal of aesthetic reception (Pfitzner, Palestrina: Klavier-Auszug 148–49). Palestrina’s paradigmatic mass is presented in three manifestations: initially, in its primal, originary state as it unfolds through the spontaneous inspiration vouchsafed by the angels, and then twice again in two distinct, though related kinds of reception. First, at the conclusion to Act I, after Palestrina has collapsed at his desk and scattered the pages of the newly dictated mass on the floor, it is read by his student, Silla, and by his son, Ighino, when the boys come in for their morning music lesson. When Silla and Ighino read the mass, the orchestra quietly invokes in instrumental form the vocal lines that had been sung by the angels (Pfitzner, Palestrina: Klavier-Auszug 167–68). This second manifestation of the mass unfolds in the brass as the boys imagine its sounds in the interior, private act of obviously adequate reading; we are shown that this is an example of silent and authentic reception, if not Wiedergabe (it is, after all, not identical to the vocal lines of the scene of the mass, with its Latin text), then at least a “renewed presence” (Wiedergegenwärtigkeit) that both underscores its difference from the originary event and, at the same time, the possibility of authentic exegesis. The mass is again read and interpreted when it is performed, between Acts II and III, for the pope, who then in the final Act visits Palestrina personally, recalls the experience of listening to the work (this is its third manifestation), 24 / marc a. weiner and extols the composer as the “Fürst der Musik aller Zeiten”—the “prince of music for all time” (Pfitzner, Palestrina 54), after which the drama comes to a close. In the “Miraculous Night” (Wundernacht) of Act I, we have a performance that is disavowed and presented instead as unmediated and transparent, or as a nonperformance. In Act III, we have a nonperformance representing and recalling a performance (located between Acts II and III), and between them there is the boys’ reading at the conclusion of Act I, the position of which between these extremes highlights its ambiguous function. The dramatic conceit is that we hear what Palestrina hears as the voices of the angels dictate to him their holy music. We are not subject to a public mediation, but are privileged by our private, interior, and superior reception, an experience that places the uniformity of a standardized individual response above the uncontrollable vagaries and heterogeneity of a public performance dictated by a mediating agent. Our privileged hearing distinguishes our experience from that of the pope, who must rely on the work’s execution through gifted singers. For this reason, Pfitzner does not stage this mediated performance, but only the pope’s recollection of it. When the papal choir boasts about their successful singing of Palestrina’s mass, they are portrayed as vain and obviously inferior to their angelic counterparts from Act I (Pfitzner, Palestrina 53). Their performance is deemed successful only insofar as it faithfully reveals the original text, and thus we may interpret this event, despite its necessarily inferior status when compared to the angelic representation of a pure aesthetic experience, as an allegory, again, of good Wiedergabe. But that still means that even the best reproduction falls short of the ideal, Platonic essence it evokes. The violin lines accompanying the pope’s vocal material, like those heard in the horns when Silla and Ighino read the mass at the conclusion to Act I, echo the musical material of Palestrina and the angels (Pfitzner, Palestrina: Klavier-Auszug 351–53). So Pfitzner wants it both ways: the scene recalls good reception, but this is a reception that is based on performance, which at worst is a falsification or distortion, and at best a reproduction, second-best to the original work. Therefore, the status of the mass as a temporally and materially determined accomplishment is both reinforced through the banality of the singers and also partially disavowed when the pope recalls its performance. It is characterized as an interior communication with the godly creator who transcribed it (Palestrina) and with God, that is, ironically, as unmediated. The materiality of the transcription is effaced—through it the pope directly hears the voices of the angels—and yet it recalls the postangelic music of a mediation through reading that had been staged at the end of Act I. Through these musicaldramatic manifestations, Pfitzner’s work articulates an ambivalence about pfitzner and nostalgic modernism / 25 its own reception not unlike the anxiety at the heart of Werk und Wiedergabe and emphasizes his dependence on the very thing he feared. One could examine this ambivalence as a reaction to a reliance on a concept of interiority and its necessary compromise in the act of public performance, a tension that informs the political opposition of the citizen as monad and the public sphere as the arena of collectivity. Or, to put it differently (and to once again recall Sloterdijk), this ambivalence informs the work’s longing for interiority and its fear that such a safe haven will forever be threatened by the outwardly directed forces of change in the irreverent and dangerous place of music in the modern public sphere. This would help to account for the structure of Palestrina, which juxtaposes the interior world of the composer in Acts I and III—both are set in his home—and the political turmoil of Act II, which portrays a meeting of the Council of Trent, during which the mass is only briefly mentioned, and obviously not appreciated, as one item among many on the political agenda. The realm of politics is that of the outwardly directed, post-Lapsarian musical experience, “the world as a noise-totality,” while the monad seeks to retreat into the safety of an interiority that is increasingly womb-like, “the archaic euphonious state of the pre-worldly interior,” an interiority that is forever longed for, but in danger of vanishing into the realm of unrealized utopia (Sloterdijk, “Wo sind wir?” 301). During the first manifestation of the mass by means of a chorus representing angels, Palestrina clearly distinguishes between an interior, private realm of godly inspiration and the mundane, earthly realm that will receive the finished work when he exclaims: I have been raised to Overwhelming joy! Worldly success lies far below. Blessed I send my thankful glance Toward heaven, Inwardly praising Love’s eternal power, Which has brought peace to me. (Pfitzner, Palestrina 23) (Italics added) Here, the emphasis lies on the interiority of the event (innig zu loben), and Pfitzner’s dramaturgy essentially collapses the distinction between the interior experience of inspiration and its external manifestation, or execution. If we read this text through the lens of Sloterdijk’s psychology of music, the perception of acoustical space from the confines of a guarded interior seamlessly conflates with the nostalgia at the heart of Palestrina’s conservative desire for a return to the status quo as a time, and a locus, of safety. There are a number of ways Pfitzner’s work contradicts his theory, which is not unusual for an artist—this was often the case with his forerunner 26 / marc a. weiner Wagner—and the tensions between his theoretical reflections and aesthetic practice serve to underscore even further the tendency for his insistent polarizations to break down or to edge toward collapse. Many commentators have noted that Pfitzner’s music is far more experimental than his theory would lead one to believe. In his review of Palestrina at the Frankfurt Opera, for example, Adorno remarked on the work’s innovative employment of timbre, or “Klang,” as an imaginative compositional device, and others have recognized in such works as the Goethe-Lied “An den Mond” and the C-sharp minor String Quartet an employment of sonic material that so expands tonal expectations that it both recalls Debussy’s pentatonic scales and at times virtually borders on the very atonality Pfitzner abhorred in the New Vienna School (Adorno, “Pfitzner’s Palestrina” 35; Skouenborg 143, 151; on the quartet see Vogel 97; on the Goethe song see Williamson 234–37). The binarisms at work throughout Pfitzner’s thought, with its distrust of signification as the plaything of irreverent and often leftist, internationally inclined, and sometimes Jewish intellectuals, brings Pfitzner’s body of work close to that of a host of conservative thinkers of the modernist period, from Hofmannsthal and George at the start of the century (Williams 6–20; Norton passim), to Jünger and Riefenstahl during the development of proto-fascist and fascist modernism. As Russell Berman has argued, one of the fundamental principles of fascist aesthetics is its polarization of the written word and image, a polarization that denigrates the former as associated with rationalism and parliamentary politics and privileges the latter as a vehicle for immediate, sensate, and collective reception, so that the emphasis on form suggests a suspicion of the vagaries of the hermeneutics of literate culture and implies that the sensual impressions of image are more reliable (99–103, 109–17). On the other hand, Pfitzner’s ambiguity and his distinctions between written and performed text, as well as the tensions between his avowed polarizations and their mitigated repercussions in his aesthetic practice, would suggest that his work by no means fits neatly into such a bifurcated cognitive structure. And surprisingly, if one finds Berman’s model persuasive, this ambiguity on Pfitzner’s part would make him ill-fitted to the fascism with which he is historically, that is, manifestly connected. Despite his opportunistic association with the National Socialist movement in the 1930s (Kater 144–82) (during which his cantata From the German Soul— Von deutscher Seele—was performed in a ceremony welcoming Goebbels to Berlin, Pfitzner was made a Reichskultursenator, Pfitzner “Festspiele” were organized as a celebration of German art under the auspices of the Nazi Party, and the movement banned the very kind of art Pfitzner so abhorred—from jazz to dodecaphony), the integrity of his aesthetic practice pfitzner and nostalgic modernism / 27 might allow us to view his work in a far more favorable light than such a model as Berman’s would cast on a contemporary figure such as Jünger. While Pfitzner distinguishes between spirit, the written word, and thirdparty intermediaries necessary for performance, the fascist modernists purportedly view Pfitzner’s second level of signification, the written word, with the same degree of skepticism that Pfitzner directed against the vagaries of contemporary performance and staging practice. For unlike the National Socialists, Pfitzner’s aesthetics emerges from an extreme anxiety concerning the inferiority of the hermeneutic abilities of those around him and a pervasive longing for a return to a moment located somewhere in the past, including the moment of creation of his own works of art, and manifested in a variety of other superior German works as well. This distinction may partially mitigate a comparison of Pfitzner with the National Socialists that his historical position and biography would otherwise justify. Such unyielding arrogance and cultural nostalgia, such outward and inward movements of the imagination, recur throughout not only Pfitzner’s work, but that of his leftist modernist contemporaries as well, betraying a widespread reliance on bifurcated conceptual models that recur across the political spectrum, and in this respect, Pfitzner is a symptomatic figure. This description of Pfitzner could equally apply, for example, to the work of his strangest of bedfellows, Theodor W. Adorno. Where would we place him in Sloterdijk’s categories of psychic-sonic perception? One has only to think of Adorno’s notoriously reactionary writings on jazz and film—the very cultural production of the modern age that Pfitzner so abhorred— to discern a similar effect of despair and a fear of annihilation that are everywhere apparent in Pfitzner’s writings (Adorno, “Abschied vom Jazz,” “Jazz,” “Über Jazz,” “Zeitlose Mode: Zum Jazz;” Weiner, “Urwaldmusik” 483–85). I choose to compare Pfitzner and Adorno precisely because one would think of them as so diametrically opposed, owing to their distinctive political (not to mention ethnic) affiliations. The point is not simply that they shared a distaste for specific cultural works deemed foreign, but rather, that the similar affect that accompanied their thought demonstrates the pervasive nature of the tension between the outwardly directed music of which Sloterdijk speaks and the nostalgia that constitutes its despairing alternative. For Adorno’s polarized categories (of E, or “ernste [serious]” and U, or “Unterhaltungs- [low-brow or trivial] Musik,” for example) also reveal an anxiety that one may be overwhelmed by the libidinal forces of outwardly directed change, even as one recognizes the futility of searching for a lost and purportedly superior past (Einleitung 199–218). Adorno’s nostalgia is readily apparent, though it is never explicit, and it is a key to his historical and cultural moment (Subotnik 17–18, 21–22; Thomas, passim). No wonder the authentic artwork retreats from the inferior public sphere in both 28 / marc a. weiner Pfitzner’s and Adorno’s thought. The contours of the artworks they deem superior may be vastly different, but the affect—which locates the subject in Sloterdijk’s despairing “afterglow from Paradise”—that accompanies both of them and the works they mutually reject is not. It is a signature of the modernist imagination. Notes 1. All translations are my own. 2. Pfitzner was championed—and later vilified—by Thomas Mann (Abendroth 222), despised by Bertolt Brecht (Lucchesi 94, 283) and Georg Kaiser (Kaiser 113), and made note of in the reflections of a number of prominent thinkers in the early twentieth century, including Musil (Musil, Tagebücher 481–82; Tagebücher: Anmerkungen 309–10) and Schnitzler (Schnitzler 179). Mahler, Rembrandt, and the Dark Side of German Culture Carl Niekerk Musicologists have lately argued that Gustav Mahler is a composer with great affinity to the avant-garde. This argument is based on the observation that the principles underlying Mahler’s compositions bear great resemblance to those of the so-called Second Vienna School. This section tries to develop the same argument from a Cultural Studies perspective by focusing on the philosophical, political, and aesthetic debates dominating the discourse about German culture in the first decade of the twentieth century. Peter Bürger has defined the historical avant-garde as the moment in Western art when artists no longer pursued one ideal form of art, but instead started experimenting with all available existing artistic forms (Theorie 23). Theodor Adorno, in his long and problematic essay on Mahler, thinks that at the core of Mahler’s music there is indeed an overreliance on older musical materials and forms (Mahler 126). Adorno sees this as something negative in that it ties Mahler’s work to outlived ideologies, but, as I show in the following, Mahler’s use of tradition also has a critical and emancipatory side. According to Peter Bürger, in the historical avant-garde the work of art enters a stage of self-reflection and also of self-criticism regarding its functioning in society (Theorie 28). In a highly specialized society in which art has become something abstract, accessible to only a small number of consumers, the avant-garde wants to reinvest art with a critical and political potential. Self-reflection in Mahler takes on the form of a critical adoption of the German cultural tradition, and in particular of the imprint that Wagner’s aesthetic and political writings have left on the German cultural landscape. While Mahler is, on the one hand, in awe of the formal innovations underlying Wagner’s work, he cannot but feel highly uncomfortable 30 / carl niekerk with its anti-Semitic undertones. In spite of the fact that Mahler’s concept of culture is indebted to Romanticism and to a concomitant view of culture as a conversation among great men—his interest in Rembrandt, to be discussed in detail later, is a case in point—his cultural agenda nevertheless approaches the ideal of the historical avant-garde. In addition to Mahler’s experimentation with inherited musical forms and materials and the element of self-reflection in his work, there is a third aspect of his oeuvre that brings him into proximity with the historical avant-garde. Bürger points to the ambiguous relationship the avant-garde work of art has to politics and to reality outside the realm of aesthetics. On the one hand, the avant-garde acknowledges the autonomy of art and the split between art and society; on the other hand, its ambition is to bridge the gap between art and the outside world and to bring art back to the people by associating itself with a progressive political agenda.1 In the following, I argue that there is, particularly in Mahler’s later compositions, a polemical and critical impetus that self-consciously attempts to construct alternative traditions. In his later compositions—in the following I mainly discuss the Seventh Symphony, but similar observations can be made about the Eighth and Das Lied von der Erde—Mahler develops and articulates a progressive notion of alterity that gradually moves to the core of his work. Mahler articulates, I argue, an increasing interest in the margins of German culture. Dutch culture can be understood, in part, as a margin of German culture. With that remark I do not mean to idealize Dutch culture; fin de siècle Dutch culture was not particularly progressive or experimental.2 Its importance for Mahler lies not in the fact that it presents an important alternative national tradition or another canon as a point of orientation, but rather in its ability to represent alternative aspects of German culture—to function as a margin of German culture. There existed a lively interest in German culture in the Netherlands around 1900, as well as a curiosity about French and English culture. Rather than conceiving of Dutch culture from the standpoint of a strong national tradition, it might be more productive to see it as a culture of margins, as a border zone where different identities meet. This would explain a certain skepticism in the Netherlands toward the nationalistic and often conservative tendencies underlying the national cultures surrounding it. It is precisely this skepticism that, I would argue, attracted Mahler to the Netherlands. It is interesting to note that Mahler apparently spoke quite openly about his Jewishness to his Dutch contacts (Nikkels 331), and in other respects as well he was quite outspoken while in the Netherlands. At a dinner party hosted by the affluent benefactors of the Concertgebouw, Mahler—often said to have conventional literary taste—created quite a stir by forcefully defending Multatuli, the Dutch mahler, rembrandt, and german culture / 31 author of Max Havelaar, a novel highly critical of colonialism (Micheels, “Gustav Mahler” 25, 33). Mahler visited Amsterdam four times (in 1903, 1904, 1906, and 1909), mostly to rehearse and conduct his own music with the still very new Concertgebouw orchestra. Two figures were particularly important for him at this point. Mahler’s main contact in Amsterdam was Willem Mengelberg (1871–1951), the young but internationally quite famous conductor who was to lead the Concertgebouw for half a century, from 1895 to 1945. Mahler also developed a close relationship with Alphons Diepenbrock (1862–1921), a classics teacher, private tutor, part-time composer and conductor, strongly influenced by Wagner and Nietzsche. It is clear that Mahler could discuss his music and intellectual interests on a very sophisticated level with these men. But above all, in Amsterdam Mahler found a conductor and an orchestra excited about performing his music and willing to use unconventional means to foster interest in it. Rembrandt According to Willem Mengelberg, Mahler’s Seventh Symphony was meant at least partially as an acoustic representation of Rembrandt’s Night Watch. In Mengelberg’s copy of the second movement of the score of the Seventh the following note can be found: “Strict march. ‘Night Watch’ Rembrandt. Left, right, left, right. Suggest olden times’ ” (De la Grange, Triumph 852). Mahler had seen Rembrandt’s Night Watch during his first visit to Amsterdam in late 1903 (Micheels, “Gustav Mahler” 25); he started composing the second movement of the Seventh, the first of two Nachtmusiken, half a year later in the summer of 1904 (De la Grange, Triumph 842). During his second visit in October 1904 he went by Rembrandt’s house and was clearly very impressed (De la Grange, Triumph 370). During these visits, Amsterdam was preparing for a celebration of the 300th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth (1606/1906). As part of the planned festivities, four Dutch composers were asked to write music based on Rembrandt’s etchings. Mahler’s friends Willem Mengelberg and Alphons Diepenbrock were among them (Zwart 205). Mengelberg’s annotation concerning Rembrandt can no doubt be traced to conversations between himself and Mahler. It is impossible to discuss Rembrandt reception in the German-speaking countries around 1900 without acknowledging Julius Langbehn’s extremely popular book Rembrandt als Erzieher (Rembrandt as Educator) (1890). This book was a bestseller in the 1890s; it went through 72 prints in just three years (1890–92).3 Langbehn was a conservative critic and a cultural pessimist, strongly influenced by Nietzsche. At the beginning of his project he observes that 32 / carl niekerk Germany is in a state of cultural decline; a renewal of German society, however, is possible via a return to its roots, and in particular to a tradition personified by Rembrandt. It is easy to read and dismiss Rembrandt als Erzieher as an example of conservative, elitist, ultranationalistic, imperialistic, anti-intellectual, antidemocratic, and at times deeply racist and anti-Semitic cultural criticism. This is all very true. But in accordance with the goals of the conference on which this volume is based—thinking beyond master narratives, looking beyond simple dichotomies such as “left/right”—I propose bracketing Langbehn’s political intentions, and instead I want to focus on his cultural criticism. In Rembrandt als Erzieher, Langbehn attacks the modern world in which sciences, mechanical thinking, and over-specialization dominate (103). In particular, Langbehn criticizes the lack of individualism (3ff.) among his German contemporaries, even though this is part of the essence of Germanness. He is convinced that art will save the Germans (Langbehn 99). A new synthesis is necessary, and the personification of this new synthesis is Rembrandt and the tradition for which he stands. It is part of Langbehn’s paradoxical argumentation that he demands more individualism from German art while attempting to create a new collective consciousness (Hein 71). It is important to distinguish between such critical-deconstructive and reconstructive impulses in Langbehn’s text. But why is Rembrandt of such essential importance for Langbehn? Rembrandt is for Langbehn the most individual of all German artists (9); “ein hoher Grad von Unregelmäßigkeit Verschobenheit Eigenartigkeit” (a high degree of irregularity displacement singularity) characterizes his work (12). This is the critical Langbehn speaking. From a return to the tradition represented by Rembrandt, Langbehn expects what he once calls “die Schaffung neuer geistiger Werte” (the creation of new spiritual values)(268). More specifically, he hopes for a deepening of German national consciousness beyond everyday politics: “Früher war man kosmopolitisch, jetzt sollte man kunstpolitisch sein; eben diese Kunstpolitik könnte das ideale Gegengewicht gegen die oft so trivialen Interessen der jeweiligen Tagespolitik bilden” (Langbehn 269). Langbehn’s alternative reconstruction of the German cultural tradition has Romantic roots. The idea that art compensates for the disappointments of political life—elements of this idea of Langbehn were adapted by Thomas Mann in his Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen (Reflections of a NonPolitical Man) (Hein 61, 91–102)—can of course be traced back to Romanticism. In many respects, Langbehn’s program is fairly typical for conservative turn-of-the-century cultural criticism. However, this should not make us overlook the fact that, in terms of cultural memory, his text does contain a rather radical move; Langbehn wants to locate the center of mahler, rembrandt, and german culture / 33 German culture outside Germany. He discusses the problem that Rembrandt is Dutch and not German early in his text (Langbehn 9). But he sees this as a purely political matter; “innerlich”—one could say: in spirit—Rembrandt belongs to the Germans. Rembrandt figures as an alternative for the dominant cultural discourse that goes back to Winckelmann (Langbehn 30ff.), is continued by Goethe—although Langbehn also tries to align Goethe with Rembrandt—and Schiller, and is dominated by the “foreign” and therefore “false” (Langbehn 33) ideals projected on ancient Greece. It is highly interesting that Langbehn, in the process of his decentering and then recentering of the German cultural tradition, also mentions Rembrandt’s interest in Jews: Eigen