Beautiful Form? 'Vienna and the Viennese' and Stifter’s Urban Sketches

Vance Byrd

Adalbert Stifter’s novels and short stories are known for rural settings and withdrawn domesticity, but his articles in Vienna and the Viennese (1841-44) are his most sustained meditation on the city. In this article, I identify the panoramic, daguerreotypic, and kaleidoscopic as the dominant representational modes. I argue that the other contributors write social portraits in a daguerreotypic style common to Austrian vernacular literature, while Stifter’s preference for the panoramic is consistent with his realism. My analysis suggests that he uses this mode to critique proto-industrialization and the monarchy. Finally, I conclude that the kaleidoscopic is an apt metaphor for urban topographies and reflects the work’s form, as well.

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