Dandyism as a principle of aesthetic composition: a study of Georg Büchner, Franz Kafka and Oswald Wiener.
Knapp, Ferdinand Mathes
University of Cambridge
Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Knapp, F. M. (2002). Dandyism as a principle of aesthetic composition: a study of Georg Büchner, Franz Kafka and Oswald Wiener. (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11631
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In considering the dandy, this study does not concern itself so much with the historical figure, but rather with the specific mode of dandyistic writing. It seeks to understand the term "dandyism", and so explain the move from the dandy as a social phenomenon to dandyism as a principle of aesthetic composition. The core of my argument is that the dandy-figure has from the beginning constituted itself as a written text, and that this understanding opens up questions of identity, origination and the nature of writing. Part I takes Buchner's own dress-sense as a point of departure, through an analysis of Dantons Tod and Leonce und Lena, which focuses on questions of clothing, of the symbolic economy of seeing, and of the relationship between machinery and writing. Proceeding from the dandyism of Buchner to that of Kafka, I argue in part II that Kafka' s dandyism is a development of Buchner' s. Kafka addresses the question of clothing throughout his writing, starting with the shiny surfaces of elegant clothing that particularly occupy him in his early texts (Betrachtung and Beschreibung eines Kampfes) and moving to the virtual nakedness of the very last ones (Ein Hungerkunstler). The analysis demonstrates how Kafka's early aestheticism folds into the late asceticism, with the dandy embodying the tension between the aesthetic and the ascetic. Finally, I show in part ill how Wiener takes the dandy figure and exhausts it. For him, the dandy is a thing of the past; in his essay Eine Art Einzige, for example, he defines the dandy as a "letzter metaphysiker". Paradoxically, Wiener frames his essay on the dandy with highly technical discourses, and so this chapter does not take Wiener' s account of the dandy and his epistemology of machines at face value, but rather reads them together and against each other. In order to show how he achieves this, I undertake a close examination of Wiener' s main work, verbesserung von mitteleuropa, roman. The Conclusion brings the various threads together in a historic framework and so demonstrates a continuity (but not identity) between the three authors in the mode of dandyistic writing.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11631