Introduction to Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

Karl VocelkaFebruary 5 - 6


The main goal of this introduction will be to make students, coming from very different cultures, familiar with the background knowledge necessary to follow easier the specific courses (arts, music, literature etc.). A stress will be laid on the explanation of phenomena and terms indispensable for the understanding of European and especially Austrian culture and values.

This class offers a first introduction to the Habsburg Monarchy in the late 19th and beginning 20th centuries regarding territories, economy, population, religious and national problems of the Empire. Internal changes of the political system from a new absolutism following the defeat of the 1848 revolution to a constitutional monarch and the Compromise with Hungary in 1867 - leading to the formation of the Austro-Hungarian double monarchy - constitute the background of internal politics. National tensions within and outside the Habsburg monarchy finally end in the dissolution of this multinational country after the First World War in 1918.

The course will analyze the role of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty and the myth of the Habsburgs (e.g. Francis Joseph, his wife Elisabeth, their son Rudolf and his mysterious death in Mayerling; Francis Ferdinand and his assassination in Sarajevo 1914). This will lead to an investigation of society in the fin-de-siècle period, focusing on the Habsburg residence and capital Vienna, which – by population growth and migration around 1900 – developed into a multinational metropolis.

Aristocrats and bourgeois society formed a public and a pool of patrons of arts of the period (treated in the other courses of the program). Social problems (industrialization and the terrible status of the lower classes), new political parties and the rise of anti-Semitism are necessary to understand the tensions that influenced the cultural developments. Stress will be laid on the role of women and their beginning emancipation in Society.

Requirements: The course is a prerequisite for participation in the overall program, the hours count for the contact hours and the ECTS credits. At the end of the introduction participants are required to submit a written summary of one of the topics covered.
The course will not be graded, but submission of the written summary is a requirement to attend the following courses.