Overcoming Assimilation: Jewishness and the Inheritance of Modernism in Hermann Broch’s Hofmannsthal und seine Zeit

Richard “Tres” Lambert


In Hofmannsthal und seine Zeit (1955), Hermann Broch delivers an idiosyncratic case study of the relationship between cultural mythology and Jewish The Sheridan Press assimilation in pre- and interwar Viennese society. Focusing on the life and times of compatriot Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Broch derives a critique of his contemporary based on Hofmannsthal’s conservative embrace of mainstream Austrian cultural history. Through this rebuke of Hofmannsthal—and his celebration of Karl Kraus—Broch reinvigorates the aesthetics of modernist fragmentation to reassert Jewish identity predicated on cultural non-identification and historical discontinuity. Broch’s essayistic resistance to historical narrative is a self-conscious technique that facilitates his own reassessment of post-war Jewish identity as a site of defiant cultural value that rejects historical integration by employing the critical, disjointed, and destructive aesthetics that characterized Viennese Jewish modernism in the first place. (RL)

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