Robert Musil as Sexual Theorist (GSA 2020)
Robert Musil knew sex—and wasn’t afraid to ask. Yet, in comparison to contemporaries such as Sigmund Freud, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, or Magnus Hirschfeld, he has received considerably less scholarly attention as a theorist of sex—one who, importantly, theorized issues of sex, gender, sexuality, and desire through fiction. He was fascinated by the faculties of fictional writing to elucidate the nature and phenomenology of sex and especially its intersection with identity, subjectvity, social relations, knowledge production, and power, among other issues. Indeed, his oeuvre is shot through with precise, poetic, and provoking explorations of sexuality’s myriad manifestations: male, female, adulterous, sadomasochistic, heterosexual, homosexual, incestual, bestial. Throughout his works, literary language functions as a tool for representing what he thought positivist sciences could not. Musil’s embrace of the ambiguity and ambivalence of literary language reflects his position as a thinker in productive tension with the popular, overarching theories of his time, materialist, psychoanalytic, or otherwise.
Expanding on previous scholarship, such as David S. Luft’s cultural histories Robert Musil and the Crisis of European Culture (1980) and Eros and Inwardness (2003), we wish to further unravel this knot of sex, epistemology, and ontology in Musil’s work specifically from the perspectives and with the tools of literary analysis. What did literary discourses and forms allow Musil in his lifelong examination of the sexual human condition that other genres or pathways of thought did not or could not?
We welcome papers on all aspects of Musil’s fictional works. Topics of interest include but are not limited to:
- Sexual desire and practices
- Knowledge production through sex
- Transformation of the self through sex
- Sexual desire and narrative form/language
- Erotic narration
- Erotic temporalities
- Gender and narrative form
- Gender and sexual desire
- Politics of sexual desire
- Literature as a vehicle or tool for the production of (sexual) knowledge
For consideration, please submit an abstract of ca. 300 words with a title and a short biography: firstname.lastname@example.org by January 31, 2020.
Domenic DeSocio, University of Michigan
Taeho Kim, University of Chicago