Ironists of a Vanished Empire

In Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire, Marjorie Perloff returns to the world of her birth. She engages in a close reading of six major post-imperial Austrian writers, making the case for the existence of a distinctive and valuable tradition of “Austro-Modernism.” There is a whole academic industry devoted to the writers, thinkers, and artists who flourished in Weimar Germany—figures like Thomas Mann, Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, and Kurt Schwitters. But Perloff believes that this focus on Germany has cast a shadow over the distinctively different work done by twentieth-century German writers who lived in the territories once belonging to the Habsburg Empire.

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