"Haus in Rosen" or Urban Apartment: The Domestic Interior in Hermann Broch's Schlafwandler

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Book Chapter

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Herman Brochs Schlafwandler-Trilogie: Neue Interpretationen: Das Lancaster-Symposium von 2009


In the third volume of Hermann Broch's trilogy, Die Schlafwandler, a woman walks barefoot through her house and garden as World War I ends. The woman, Hanna Wendling, is dressed in a white nightgown illuminated by the fires of town uprisings. In a blind and feverish state, Hanna manages to find her way to the edge of her property and scare a potential looter. Instinctively, she defends her home in the midst of revolution. Hanna's confident movement through the private spaces of her home stands in stark contrast to the riots and violence of the night. This scene's emphasis on Hanna's unconscious drive to safeguard her home reinforces modernist cultural assumptions that homes are private and secure places that protect individuals and families. It suggests that the home constitutes a space into which modern European crisis, the focus of the trilogy, does not penetrate. This domestic scene is, however, the culmination of a much broader representation of women in the modernist interior developed throughout the trilogy. Placing this scene of the interior within a larger context of design and architecture in modernism, I will argue that Broch's literary representation of cultural crisis reveals fissures in the image of domestic tranquility. Through both visual and spatial descriptions, the novels' depiction of domestic interiors challenges common theories of literary and cultural modernism, such as the interior's affirmation of personal aesthetic expression and patterns of consumption, as well as modernism's association with masculinity and publicity. The trilogy presents the failure of the interior to support cultural, social, economic, and symbolic needs as evidence of European crisis and in doing so generates a narrative of women's experience in this history. Therefore, at the end of my analysis of the modernist domestic interior in its historical architectural context, I will return to the novels themselves to expose the importance of the reader's role in constructing and reflecting on domesticity and women in modernity.


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