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Keywords: Austrian literature, autobiographical fiction, modernism, childhood, artist novel, selfhood, Rilke, Kafka, Musil, Bernhard.
For citation:

Kotelevskaya V.V. Adult and His Other: Conceptualization of the Childhood in the Austrian Modernist Fiction (On the Example of R.M. Rilke). Studia Litterarum, 2017, vol. 2, no 4, pp. 134–145. (In Russ.) DOI:10.22455/2500-4247-2017-2-4-134-145

Author: Vera V. Kotelevskaya
Information about the author:

Vera V. Kotelevskaya, PhD in Philology, Associate Professor, Institute of Philology, Journalism and Cross-Cultural Communication of Southern Fede ral University, Bol’shaya Sadovaya 105/42, 344006 Rostov on Don, Russia.

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Received: July 31, 2017
Published: December 25, 2017
Issue: 2017 Vol. 2, №4
Department: World Literature
Pages: 134-145
DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2017-2-4-134-145
UDK: 821.112.2(436)
BBK: 83.3(4Авс)

Abstract

The childhood as the subject of psychology, philosophy, and art is object of intensive study in the 20 th century Austrian culture. Childhood is seen as the origin of personhood, its “code” that calls for interpretation. Psychoanalysis of Freud and Rank, fiction of Rilke, Musil, Kafka, Bernhard, Bachmann, and Handke are the landmarks in the development of the Austrian modernist text on childhood. The study of the conceptualization of childhood in the 20 th century Austrian fiction being part of the modernist project of the independent personality generating autonomous art is of scholarly relevance. Rainer Maria Rilke imparts a confessional tone to the theme as he develops the neo-romantic idea of childhood as the source of artistic personality. The child is conceptualized as the other of the adult whereas art is conceived to compensate the loss of the former. Experience of self-research is undertaken by Rilke in the novel about a fictional Danish poet Malte Laurids Brigge (Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge / “Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge”, 1910). The author first describes the past of the character, or his “lonely” childhood, and then turns to the historical past of the mankind and evangelical parable from which the narrator draws exemplae as arguments for his juxtaposition of the “mask” and the self. The fragmentariness or dissociation of the adult self becomes partly overcome by means of return to the childhood, a period when the narrator already gains experience of self-loss and self-discovery. Thus, for the modernist artist, the aesthetic project is inseparably interrelated with the “Sisyphean labor” of writing (Albert Camus), loss of the transcendental principles of poetic “labor,” and total experience of despair which, according to Kierkegaard, inspires self-reflection.

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