Franz-Josef Land: Affect and Empire in Schnitzler's "Die Toten schweigen" (Biennial Liselotte Dieckmann Lecture by Imke Meyer)
Schnitzler’s narrative “Die Toten schweigen,” first published in 1897 and set in Vienna, is littered with street names and references to buildings and monuments. In its repeated mentions of roads, surfaces, and buildings, the text captures materialities of the imperial city that reflect competing temporalities of modernity. Yet the seeming solidity of material surfaces and the specificities of spatial markers, meant to invoke the long history, spatial expansion, and might of the Habsburg Empire, induce disorientation and anxiety in the characters that move through the cityscape. The married woman at the center of the story hurtles towards a moral and emotional crisis as her illicit lover is killed when he quite literally collides with the debris of modernity. This paper will argue, then, that the story of Schnitzler’s doomed lovers is mapped onto the topography of an imperial city that mirrors the instability of an empire anxiously moving towards an end both accidental and inevitable.
Lecture is free and open to the public.