kitsch, Austria, Austrian literature, Hermann Broch, Robert Musil, real art, pseudo art, art, late-idealistic art, relativistic, aesthetic experience, Hal Foster, critical distance, The Return of the Real


This article examines the discourse on kitsch articulated by Austrian novelists Hermann Broch (1886-1951) and Robert Musil (1880-1942) between 1930 and 1950. In particular, I focus on the ways in which the two novelists draw the distinction of value between real and pseudo art (or kitsch). As I argue, their disagreement on this matter is emblematic of dilemmas that continue to confront aesthetic evaluation today. While Broch anchors value in a metaphysical realm on the outside of aesthetic discourse, assuming a late-idealistic notion of art, Musil frames the distinction between 'good' and 'bad' art within an empirical, relativistic, and immanent understanding of aesthetic experience. In the final section I draw on Hal Foster's notion of a "critical distance" (The Return of the Real, 1996) to discuss the advantages and limitations of the evaluative paradigms suggested by the two novelists.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.