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The Importance of Romantic Aesthetics for the Interpretation of Thomas Bernhard's „Auslöschung. Ein Zerfall“ and „Alte Meister. Komödie“

Kaufmann, Sylvia; (1996) The Importance of Romantic Aesthetics for the Interpretation of Thomas Bernhard's „Auslöschung. Ein Zerfall“ and „Alte Meister. Komödie“. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Since the early 1980's, in the context of discussions of the modern and the postmodern, the aesthetics of German Romanticism have gained widespread currency - particularly in their application to recent narrative fiction. Certain key questions have moved insistently to the forefront of attention; the notion of the incompleteness of the work of art, of creativity as an infinite process, of the de-centred subject (in contradiction to the Cartesian subject), of the fragment as a legitimate aesthetic mode, of criticism as a necessary part of the creative project. All these themes and problems recur in contemporary writing, but nowhere more urgently than in the works of Thomas Bernhard. This thesis is concerned to demonstrate the striking affinity that obtains between the aesthetics of Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis and certain key texts of Bernhard. Three issues are singled out as essential terms of comparison: the problematic concept of subjectivity, the notion of language and imagination as vitally complicit in the creation of identity, and the theory of self-reflexive art. For the purposes of detailed textual analysis, the thesis concentrates on two late works of Bernhard "Ausloschung. Ein Zerfail" bears witness to the destruction of the biographical subject and its subsequent re-creation as an aesthetic subject. The protagonist of the novel, Franz-Josef Murau, embodies the (characteristically Bernhardian) arrogant, obsessive individual who, for all his manically self-assertive presence in the text, fails to establish a coherent and stable identity. Bernhard insists, then, on the failure of identity, the extinction of selfhood and the irreversible fragmentation of the subject Murau. In response to the dismantling of the self, Bernhard explores processes of aesthetic or intellectual construction - only to expose them as hopeless projects. Ultimately, even the notion of aesthetic perfection or closure is called into question. These issues are also central to "Alte Meister. Komodie". Here Bernhard suggests the idea of infinite approximation and exponential incompletion as the last refuge of individual potential. Yet, in the last analysis, the desire for self-creation and the search for truth are transmuted into a self-ironic exposure of the artificial nature of both art and subjectivity. The knowing, se1f-thematizing artistic play with language remains the only defence against the sheer contingency of experience.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Importance of Romantic Aesthetics for the Interpretation of Thomas Bernhard's „Auslöschung. Ein Zerfall“ and „Alte Meister. Komödie“
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100582
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