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Collective Biography 'Junges Wien'

 

‘Friends? We aren’t really friends – we just don’t make each other nervous.’ These words are attributed to the writer and dandy Richard Beer-Hofmann when talking about ‘Junges Wien’ (‘Young Vienna’), a group of writers who through their diverse activities had a decisive influence on the culture and aesthetics of Viennese Modernism.

The group began to form around 1890 in open, fluctuating and non-hierarchical gatherings. They first met at Café Griensteidl, a coffee house in the old Palais Herberstein, later romanticized as a ‘Platonic academy’ by Hermann Bahr. It was there that Bahr, an indefatigable networker and self-proclaimed ‘founder’ of Junges Wien, met with Beer-Hofmann and others, including the physician and writer Arthur Schnitzler, the literary prodigy Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Felix Salten, now chiefly remembered for his animal story »Bambi« (1923), later filmed by Walt Disney.

Many other literary talents, journalists, editors and art critics belonged to a wider circle. Eduard Michael Kafka, the editor of the magazine »Moderne Dichtung«, dubbed the ‘party organ of Junges Wien’ by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, once described the membership as ‘42 writers – the young authorial elite of Austria!’. Of these authors, however, most are now little known or even forgotten.

The project will result in a collective biography of the literary circle. It will not only bring together a variety of life documents relating to Junges Wien, but will also offer a cultural historical account of the group. It will discuss the following questions among others: What kind of role did everyday life (»Alltagskultur«) play – including fashions, physical culture, urbanization, gender? What influence did specific places have – cafés, salons, particular theatres or districts – on the composition of Junges Wien? And what of Judaism or Zionism? Which figures were to influence or even define the circle? Which international currents and cultural energies affected Junges Wien? Which myths are interwoven with this group of writers? What was the impact, and what the legacy, of Junges Wien?

 

 

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