The World of Yesterday: Vienna 1900
General Catalog Course Title:
Freshman Seminar
Terms Offered:
Fall 2014
Fall 2013
Spring 2010

For a few decades at the end of the nineteenth century, Vienna witnessed an extraordinary and unprecedented flowering of the arts, politics, philosophy, and industry. This cultural surge made Vienna the "city of dreams" and not a few nightmares. The capital of Austria- Hungary, Vienna had doubled in population since 1840; and while the mostly failed Revolution of 1848 had not succeeded in toppling the Habsburg monarchy, it had given the empire a constitution. Along the newly constructed Ringstrasse, a parade of monumental public buildings and grand residences separated the old central city from the suburbs that were mushrooming beyond it. Vienna in this period was a city of great variety, contrasts, and contradictions-ethnic, social, political, and economic. It was at once splendid and squalid, progressive and decadent. Fin-de-siècle Viennese society looked backward and forward at the same time. From the Hofburg and the Schönbrunn palace at the edge of town, Emperor Franz Josef maintained the aristocratic, Catholic tradition of the monarchy through social policies that were alternately enlightened and repressive. Downtown, artists, intellectuals, musicians, and businessmen from around the city and across the empire formed the coffeehouse set whose ideas shaped the Viennese Art Nouveau, the Zionist movement, the theory of psychoanalysis, and the Russian Revolution. This was the Vienna of Freud and Herzl, Hofmannsthal and Schnitzler, Bruckner and Mahler, Kokoschka and Schiele, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, as well as conservative Mayor Karl Lueger. Vienna in these years was preoccupied with beauty, feeling, and style, but also with class, racial, and ethnic prejudice. This brilliant chapter of the city's history, which saw the rise of the Secession, Young Vienna, and the Wiener Werkstätte, ended with the Great War. This seminar is about the remarkable aesthetic production that burgeoned in the conflicted social and intellectual climate of Vienna around 1900. We will concentrate primarily on literary and journalistic writers of the period, but will also sample the work of some of the great painters, decorative artists, and musicians who contributed to the unique atmosphere of Vienna in the prewar period. The syllabus is likely to include texts by Sigmund Freud, Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Theodor Herzl, Robert Musil, and Franz Kafka; paintings and decorative art objects by Joseph Hofmann and Gustav Klimt; and a film by Max Ophüls. Previous knowledge of German is not required. Students with a background in German, however, are welcome (indeed encouraged) to do some of the assigned readings in the original language. This seminar may be used to satisfy the Arts and Literature breadth requirement in Letters and Science. Previous knowledge of German is not required. Students with a background in German, however, are welcome (indeed encouraged) to do some of the assigned readings in the original language. This seminar may be used to satisfy the Arts and Literature breadth requirement in Letters and Science.

Elaine Tennant took her Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard. Her main areas of research are the Habsburg court society in the 15th and 16th centuries, information management in the first century of printing, the development of the German language at the end of the Middle Ages, and the Middle High German narrative tradition. She conducts most of her primary research in Austria. Her publications include a monograph on the emergence of the German common language, a study of vocalism in sixteenth-century German primers, and essays on such topics as Gottfried's Tristan, word and image in early modern Germany, gender dynamics in the Nibelungenlied, New Historicism, intellectual property, and European responses to the discovery of the Americas.

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.