The Queer Temporalities of Sadomasochism in Robert Musil’s Törless

Adrienne Merritt


This article explores the ways in which sadomasochism (S/M) performs on the level of content and form in Robert Musil’s Die Verwirrungen des Zo¨glings To¨rless (1906). The interconnecting yet disjointed literary tableaux in To¨rless are drawn together through tensions developed by the interplay between what Nicole McCleese calls sadistic time (accelerated and authoritative narrative temporality) and masochistic time (a poetics of delay, suspense, and waiting). Reading sadism and masochism across the narrative exposes the multivariant form of S/M, one that achieves both literalized and symbolic ends. This reading is situated squarely within queer interpretations of sadomasochism, suggesting that, despite the authorial narrator’s claims, To¨rless’s path after the cadet school can only be read as a queer phenomenological turn. The reading of sadomasochism in To¨rless is tied to a metacommentary, concerned with the anxieties associated with modernity. (AM)

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