1st Edition

Permanent Liminality and Modernity Analysing the Sacrificial Carnival through Novels

By Arpad Szakolczai Copyright 2017
    282 Pages
    by Routledge

    282 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book offers a comprehensive sociological study of the nature and dynamics of the modern world, through the use of a series of anthropological concepts, including the trickster, schismogenesis, imitation and liminality. Developing the view that with the theatre playing a central role, the modern world is conditioned as much by cultural processes as it is by economic, technological or scientific ones, the author contends the world is, to a considerable extent, theatrical - a phenomenon experienced as inauthenticity or a loss of direction and meaning. As such the novel is revealed as a means for studying our theatricalised reality, not simply because novels can be understood to be likening the world to theatre, but because they effectively capture and present the reality of a world that has been thoroughly ’theatricalised’ - and they do so more effectively than the main instruments usually employed to analyse reality: philosophy and sociology. With analyses of some of the most important novelists and novels of modern culture, including Rilke, Hofmannsthal, Kafka, Mann, Blixen, Broch and Bulgakov, and focusing on fin-de-siècle Vienna as a crucial ’threshold’ chronotope of modernity, Permanent Liminality and Modernity demonstrates that all seek to investigate and unmask the theatricalisation of modern life, with its progressive loss of meaning and our deteriorating capacity to distinguish between what is meaningful and what is artificial. Drawing on the work of Nietzsche, Bakhtin and Girard to examine the ways in which novels explore the reduction of human existence to a state of permanent liminality, in the form of a sacrificial carnival, this book will appeal to scholars of social, anthropological and literary theory.



    Part I. Before WWI: Waiting for the Storm

    1. Empires and their Collapse: Fin-de-siècle Vienna in Context

    2. Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Promises and Realities

    3. Novel Origins: Rilke’s Notebooks of Malte and Hofmannsthal’s Andreas

    Part II. Suspended in the In-Between: Franz Kafka

    4. Kafka’s Sources and Insights: Theatre and Other Modes of Distorted Communication

    5. Kafka’s Novels: In Between Theatre, Theology and Prophecy

    6. The Zürau Notebooks: The Indestructible and the Way

    Part III. After WWI: Hypermodernity as Sacrificial Carnival

    7. Thomas Mann: Death in Venice and Magic Mountain

    8. Karen Blixen: Carnival and Angelic Avengers

    9. Hermann Broch: Sleepwalkers

    10. Mikhail Bulgakov: Master and Margarita

    11. Heimito von Doderer: Demons

    12. Béla Hamvas: Carnival





    Arpad Szakolczai is Professor of Sociology at University College Cork, Ireland. He is the author of Max Weber and Michel Foucault: Parallel Life-Works, Reflexive Historical Sociology, The Genesis of Modernity, Sociology, Religion and Grace: A Quest for the Renaissance, and Comedy and the Public Sphere: The Re-birth of Theatre as Comedy and the Genealogy of the Modern Public Arena, and co-author of The Dissolution of Communist Power: The Case of Hungary.

    'In an age that despite glib talk of ‘interdisciplinarity’, is increasingly dominated by the careerist compartimentalization of the human sciences, reading Szakolczai’s book is like opening a study window in a gale. The carefully filed and indexed notes of works of scholarship and fiction swirl around dramatically, and when reassembled have created illuminating juxtapositions that offer a persuasive new narrative of modernity. The link it audaciously explores between the permanent liminality of modernity and the theatrical displays of sacrificial violence that characterize modern history stems itself from the fecund liminal sphere between scholarship and fiction, empiricism and vision. The interpretive force this remarkable book unleashes may belong more to the world of the novel or the cinema than the conference hall, which will surely destine it to be condemned as much as it is praised. Yet for this reader it revealed the cursed lineage between the spectacular executions of the French Revolution and of contemporary IS, and should be read by all those trying to make sense of the horrors of the modern world beyond the clichés of journalists and politicians.' - Roger Griffin, Professor in Modern History, Oxford Brookes University, UK

    'Arpad Szakolczai has been a pioneer in introducing and applying the notion of liminality, of sacrifice, and the carnivalesque into social theory, as well as using literary sources as evidence. By these notions he has come to an original analysis of the essentially theatrical character of modernity, and therefore of the liminality, of the state between the real and the theatrical, as a permanent condition. This is a tour de force in the integration of literary analysis and social theory.' - Stephen Turner, Distinguished University Professor, University of South Florida, USA

    ‘a brilliant summation of an astonishingly ambitious intellectual project that attempts nothing less than a fundamental reassessment of the nature of modernity itself.’- Peter McMylor, British Journal of Sociology