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Global Austria

 | 
Günter Bischof
, 
Fritz Plasser

I. Austria and the World

Fin de fin-de-siècle Vienna?

A Letter of Remembrance

Steven Beller

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Fin-de-siècle Vienna as a topic in cultural and intellectual history had a good, if relatively short, life and provided inspiration and purpose for many (to say nothing of employment and income for quite a few academics and writers). As someone who was involved in the latter stages of fin-de-siècle Vienna’s career, I was greatly saddened to recognize that it had recently passed away.

It might seem odd to talk of a historical topic passing away. While they refer to real events, topics are not animate and therefore neither actually live nor die. There is a sense, however, in which they can succeed or fail, be attractive and cogent or non-descript and unconvincing, innovative or old-hat, “live” or “die.” They are concepts, constructs of our reason and imagination, hermeneutic devices for understanding, grasping the world of our experience. The German word for concept, Begriff, with its sense of gaining a hold on something, sums this up well. The viability or vitality of a concept is a p...

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