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Tropics of Vienna

Tropics of Vienna

Ulrich E. Bach


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The Austrian Empire was not a colonial power in the sense that fellow actors like 19th-century England and France were. It nevertheless oversaw a multinational federation where the capital of Vienna was unmistakably linked with its eastern periphery in a quasi-colonial arrangement that inevitably shaped the cultural and intellectual life of the Habsburg Empire. This was particularly evident in the era’s colonial utopian writing, and Tropics of Vienna blends literary criticism, cultural theory, and historical analysis to illuminate this curious genre. By analyzing the works of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Theodor Herzl, Joseph Roth, and other representative Austrian writers, it reveals a shared longing for alternative social and spatial configurations beyond the concept of the “nation-state” prevalent at the time.

Tropics of Vienna adds important insights to existing research on the role of colonialism in Austrian and Viennese culture, especially for scholars and graduate students already familiar with nineteenth-century Habsburg history and culture. Ulrich E. Bach deserves praise for his unceasing effort to complicate terms such as ‘colonialist’ and ‘utopian’ via nuanced historical and cultural contextualization…[He] successfully demonstrates how postcolonial approaches to the Habsburg Empire not only shed new light on Austrian history and culture but also contribute to a nuanced rethinking of postcolonial perspectives themselves.” • Journal of Austrian Studies

“Bach’s book both insightful and accessible… his study breaks some important new ground, if not on the utopian genre, then certainly on the history and literary legacy of the late Habsburg Empire. His work will thus appeal beyond the circle of literary scholarship, and will be of interest to historians, geographers, and area studies scholars concerned with Central Europe during the critical and ever-fascinating fin de siècle.” • International Social Science Review

“Bach’s reading of these texts produces a useful picture of an unsettled political and cultural landscape. That these diverse intellectuals sought to clarify the political questions of late-Habsburg Austria within the context of utopian colonial thought-experiments remains a valuable indication of the importance of the exercise. Readers from many fields, from history and literature to cultural criticism and social theory, will find in Ulrich E. Bach’s book a welcome introduction to the vibrant and politically central question of colonialism and its relationship to utopian thinking in late-nineteenth-century Austria.” • The Austrian Yearbook

Tropics of Vienna constitute a significant addition to our understanding of the utopian tradition in German literature. It will be of real interest and benefit to those pursuing specific questions about the history of German-language utopias, as well as more general questions about the relationship, both nebulous and historically specific, between literature and society at any given moment.” • Germanic Review

“[His] readings prove to be very prolific, so that scholars of late Habsburg culture can be grateful to Tropics of Vienna for having filled a gap in the field with so much insight and inspiration for future research.” • Modern Language Review

“This is a clearly written, tightly focused, and well-argued study that takes on a topic of broad interest and offers a fresh perspective on the role of colonialism in the Austrian imagination. Ulrich E. Bach makes good use of existing scholarship and adds considerably to previous studies on the topic.” • Hillary Hope Herzog, University of Kentucky

Ulrich E. Bach is an Associate Professor of German at Texas State University. He received his doctorate from UCLA. His work has appeared in publications such as German Quarterly, Utopian Studies, and Film and History.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Tropics of Vienna iii
Contents v
Acknowledgments vi
Introduction 1
Chapter 1 Leopold von Sacher-Masoch 13
Chapter 2 Lazar von Hellenbach 39
Chapter 3 Theodor Hertzka 68
Chapter 4 Theodor Herzl 84
Chapter 5 Robert Müller 111
Index 137