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Abstract

This dissertation is a literary history of the Viennese Biedermeier, a period spanning the Vienna Congress in 1815 and the Spring of Nations in 1848. Through four case studies that examine major Viennese literary and cultural institutions — censorship, secret societies, salons, and publishing — it argues for an understanding of the period that is built on analysis of its rich literary communication and the development of the Viennese "literary public" (Habermas). In contrast to prior scholarship, which has focused on the figure of Metternich and his administration's prohibitive political conservatism, this dissertation uncovers overlaps between conservative and liberal ideologies in the period's literary culture and points to the ambivalence of its perceived reactionary institutions. The first chapter investigates individual censorship practices and reconstructs the context and history of Metternich’s censorship regime through analysis of censor evaluations (vota) of texts and literary works; it argues that those censorship documents demonstrate that censors were often focused on the formal features of analysis and writing and discusses the ways in which their normative conceptions about literature and other disciplines influenced their analysis of the suitability of books for circulation. Chapter Two investigates the pornographers of Vienna’s literary underground through a discussion of a secret society called the “Ludlamshöhle.” It shows how members of that society responded to state censorship through pornographic distortion and parody, refracting hierarchies, forms of address, and honorifics into a “caliphate” in which they configured authority around the figure of obscenity. Chapter Three looks at Caroline Pichler, an Austrian salonière known under the epithet “Madame Biedermeier,” and examines the continuities between her literary salon, her vast literary oeuvre, and her discussion of Austrian nationalism in the context of women's issues. Chapter Four ends with the mid-century revolutions through a discussion of three poems printed in the first days of March of 1848. It contrasts those poems’ attitudes to the theme of freedom with Franz Grillparzer’s famous novella "Der arme Spielmann," which he wrote more than a decade prior to the revolutions. The chapter argues that Grillparzer’s novella already contained reflections on the role of the artist to freedom — both in his relation to the state and the developing consumer public.

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