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Title: Political Theories of the Instant in Germany, 1914-1940
Authors: Schwarzbeck, Humberto
Advisors: Rabinbach, Anson
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Germany
intellectual history
Subjects: European history
Comparative literature
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The present dissertation explores the rise of the notion of instantaneous time—the sudden temporality of “the instant” (Augenblick)—as a concept in significant currents of German thought in the first decades of the twentieth century. It is my contention that a momentous historico-theoretical juncture took place between 1914 and 1940 in Germany, when an already established set of conceptualizations of instantaneous temporality as a category of perception interacted with a new experience of historical time based on rupture and abrupt discontinuity. This set of conceptualizations could be called a “modern tradition” of reflection on the instant, spanning from the poetry of Goethe and the historical self-understanding of the French Revolution, to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and the artistic and literary practice of the historical avant-gardes. In this juncture, three representative German authors of the period—Ernst Jünger, Ernst Bloch, and Walter Benjamin—fused in their works the historical consciousness associated with war, crisis, and revolution, with the literary and philosophical formulation of “the instantaneous” and “the sudden” as categories of thought. During the interwar years, the notion of the instant was a decisive element in the articulation of a new “regime of historicity,” or mode of experiencing historical time, based on the notion of sudden temporality. As I build on the categories of historical consciousness and the perception of time, I plan to show that the instant constituted a significant conceptual device to make sense of and respond to the modern experience of violent rupture during this period of German history.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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