Deborah Coen

Austrian History Yearbook, 2007


Fin-de-siècle Vienna continues to supply historians and the general public alike with a paradigm of the modernist subversion of rationality. From the birth of the unconscious, to the artistic expression of feral sexuality, to the surge of populist politics, Vienna 1900 stands as the turning point when a nineteenth-century ideal of rationality gave way to a twentieth-century fascination with subjectivity. In fact, we know little as yet about what rationality really meant to those to whom we attribute its undoing. Allan Janik writes that today the “‘big’ questions about Viennese culture” center on “just how ‘rational’ developments there have been,” and to answer these questions, Janik argues, we need research on the history of natural science in Austria. Indeed, as Steven Beller notes, the topic of science has been “strangely absent” from the animated discussions of fin-de-siècle Vienna over the past three decades.

View the paper hereLiberal Reason and the Culture of the Sommerfrische