The year 1910 marks an astonishing, and largely unrecognized, juncture in Western history. In this perceptive interdisciplinary analysis, Thomas Harrison addresses the extraordinary intellectual achievement of the time. Focusing on the cultural climate of Middle Europe and paying particular attention to the life and work of Carlo Michelstaedter, he deftly portrays the reciprocal implications of different discourses—philosophy, literature, sociology, music, and painting. His beautifully balanced and deeply informed study provides a new, wider, and more ambitious definition of expressionism and shows the significance of this movement in shaping the artistic and intellectual mood of the age.
1910 probes the recurrent themes and obsessions in the work of intellectuals as diverse as Egon Schiele, Georg Trakl, Vasily Kandinsky, Georg Lukàcs, Georg Simmel, Dino Campana, and Arnold Schoenberg. Together with Michelstaedter, who committed suicide in 1910 at the age of 23, these thinkers shared the essential concerns of expressionism: a sense of irresolvable conflict in human existence, the philosophical status of death, and a quest for the nature of human subjectivity. Expressionism, Harrison argues provocatively, was a last, desperate attempt by the intelligentsia to defend some of the most venerable assumptions of European culture. This ideological desperation, he claims, was more than a spiritual prelude to World War I: it was an unheeded, prophetic critique.
Thomas Harrison, Visiting Associate Professor of Italian at the University of California, Los Angeles, is the author of Essayism: Conrad, Musil and Pirandello (1992).
"1910 stands out as a model of interdisciplinary and comparative study. . . . It brilliantly illustrates the complexity of a crucial period in European culture . . . focusing in particular on the intellectual intricacies of Mitteleuropa on the eve of World War I and of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire."—Lucia Re
"Compellingly original. . . . In Harrison's work, Michelstaedter and his confreres (Campana, Slataper, Kokoschke, Rilke, Kandinsky, Lukàcs, Trakl, et al.) turn out to be considerably more fascinating and more emblematic of their time than anyone has been able to perceive before."—Gregory Lucente, University of Michigan