This remarkable and engaging book examines the intellectual and cultural life of turn--of--the--century Vienna, one of the most important centres of creativity in Europe. Le Rider uses the notion of identity to bring together diverse aspects of the Viennese fin de siecle in a new and illuminating way. Focusing on the work of Weininger, Schnitzler, Hofmannsthal, Gross and Beer--Hofmann, he examines the various intellectual and artistic crises of identity at the heart of Viennese society. He argues that Viennese thinkers articulated at least three different crises of identity: they unseated the concept of personhood; they redistributed gender roles; and they reassessed supposed differences between Jews and non--Jews. Le Rider goes beyond literary history to survey the mentalities, imaginative experiences and structures of feeling which are peculiar to turn of the century Vienna, arguing that Austrians lacked the images of heroic virility on offer in Germany. Viennese intellectuals saw themselves as threatened by loss of identity in a chaotic world where masculine authority was being challenged, liberal political values overthrown, and aesthetic values subverted.
In these and other respects, the culture of fin--de--siecle Vienna prefigured later developments which we have now come to describe under the term a postmodernisma .