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Making Monsters: Ugliness, Hatred, and Self-Representation in Viennese Modernity


Making Monsters: Ugliness, Hatred, and Self-Representation in Viennese Modernity

Simpson, Kathryn (2016) Making Monsters: Ugliness, Hatred, and Self-Representation in Viennese Modernity. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Making Monsters: Ugliness, Hatred, and Self-Representation in Viennese Modernity

Kathryn Simpson, PhD
Concordia University, 2016

This dissertation explores self-representation in early-twentieth-century Vienna, for example in local practices of self-portraiture. Visual artists discussed include Richard Gerstl, the composer Arnold Schönberg (who also painted), Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele. Nevertheless this project is interdisciplinary, and as such other forms of self-representation are also considered – for example rhetorical self-representational strategies by Viennese figures such as the satirical writer Karl Kraus, architect and theorist Adolf Loos, and the young philosopher-psychologist Otto Weininger.
The primary phenomenon under investigation in this discussion is the extensive use of ugliness as a strategy for self-representation in Viennese modernity, an ugliness that was connected specifically – and, as I detail, pervasively – to an affect of hate. My argument is first and foremost that obsessive self-representation was a crucial component of Viennese modernity, and secondly that this obsession with self-fashioning and display must be understood at least in part in terms of a related cultural preoccupation with ugliness and hatred.
I analyze these cultural currents of hate and ugliness as they played out in philosophy, medicine (especially psychology and psychoanalysis), politics, and of course art history. I consider the significance of the scholars of the Vienna School of Art History – such as Franz Wickhoff, who argued in defence of ugliness. I also consider the role of ugliness in contemporaneous aesthetic philosophy, for example in the theory of negative empathy popularized first by Theodor Lipps and later by Wilhelm Worringer. Sigmund Freud’s comments on ugliness and hate further illuminate a cultural milieu known both for its alienation and antagonism and for its artistic achievements. I demonstrate that at the beginning of the twentieth century Viennese artists and thinkers fashioned oppositional personae and represented themselves as ugly for a variety of reasons: to emphasize the vanguard quality of their art, to grapple with Vienna’s virulent antisemitism, to work through other identity issues, to express a sense of martyrdom, to “tell the truth,” to create notoriety in a competitive local scene, and, ultimately, to affirm the totality of existence as that which includes the negative.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Simpson, Kathryn
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Art History
Date:April 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Huneault, Kristina
ID Code:981001
Deposited On:16 Jun 2016 15:01
Last Modified:15 Jun 2018 00:00
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