Schnitzler, Arthur

views updated Jun 27 2018


Nationality: Austrian. Born: Vienna, 15 May 1862. Education: Akademisches Gymnasium, Vienna, 1871-79; studied medicine at the University of Vienna, 1879-85, M.D. 1885. Family: Married Olga Gussmann in 1903 (separated 1921); one son and one daughter. Career: Medical intern, 1885-88; assistant at Allgemeine Poliklinik, 1888-93, then in private practice. Awards: Bauernfeld prize, 1899, 1903; Grillparzer prize, 1908; Raimund prize, 1910; Vienna Volkstheater prize, 1914. Died: 21 October 1931.



Gesammelte Werke. 7 vols., 1912; enlarged edition, 9 vols., 1922.

Gesammelte Werke, edited by Robert O. Weiss. 5 vols., 1961-67.

Plays and Stories, edited by Egon Schwarz. 1982.

The Final Plays. 1996.

Short Stories and Novellas

Sterben. 1895; as "Dying," in The Little Comedy and Other Stories, 1977.

Die Frau des Weisen: Novelletten. 1898.

Leutnant Gustl. 1901; as None But the Brave, 1926.

Frau Bertha Garlan. 1901; translated as Bertha Garlan, 1913.

Die griechische Tänzerin: Novellen. 1905.

Dämmerseelen: Novellen. 1907.

Die Hirtenflöte. 1912.

Masken und Wunder: Novellen. 1912.

Frau Beate und ihr Sohn. 19l3; translated as Beatrice, 1926.

Viennese Idylls. 1913.

Doktor Gräsler, Badearzt. 19l7; translated as Dr. Graesler, 1923.

Casanovas Heimfahrt. 1918; as Casanova's Homecoming, 1921.

Der Mörder. 1922.

The Shepherd's Pipe and Other Stories. 1922.

Fräulein Else. 1924; translated as Fräulein Else, 1925.

Die dreifache Warning: Novellen. 1924.

Die Frau des Richters. 1925.

Traumnovelle. 1926; as Rhapsody: A Dream Novel, 1927.

Beatrice and Other Stories. 1926.

Spiel im Morgengrauen. 1927; as Daybreak, 1927.

Therese: Chronik eines Frauenlebens. 1928; as Theresa: The Chronicle of a Woman's Life, 1928.

Gesammelte Schriften. 6 vols., 1928.

Little Novels. 1929.

Flucht in die Finsternis. 1931; as Flight into Darkness, 1931.

Viennese Novelettes. 1931.

Abenteuernovelle. 1937.

Vienna 1900: Games with Love and Death. 1973.


Der Weg ins Freie. 1908; as The Road to the Open, 1923.


Das Abenteur seines Lebens (produced 1891). 1888.

Das Märchen (produced 1893). 1894.

Anatol (cycle of seven one-act plays; produced as a cycle 1910).1893; edited by Ernst L. Offermann, 1964; as Anatol: A Sequence of Dialogues, 1911; as The Affairs of Anatol, 1933; as Anatol, in The Round Dance and Other Plays, 1982.

Das Märchen (produced 1893). 1894.

Liebelei (produced 1895). 1896; as Light-o'-Love, 1912; asPlaying with Love, 1914; as Love Games, in The Round Dance and Other Plays, 1982; as Flirtations, in Plays and Stories, 1982; as Dalliance, adapted by Tom Stoppard, with Undiscovered Country, 1986.

Freiwild (produced 1897). 1898; as Free Game, 1913.

Das Vermächtnis (produced 1898). 1899; as The Legacy, in Poet Lore, July-August 1911.

Der grüne Kakadu, Paracelsus, Die Gefährtin. 1899; as The Green Cockatoo and Other Plays (includes Paracelsus, The Mate), 1913; Der grüne Kakadu also translated as The Duke and the Actress, 1910.

Der Schleier der Beatrice (produced 1900). 1901.

Reigen (produced 1920). 1900; as Hands Around, 1920; as Couples, 1927; as Round Dance, in From the Modern Repertoire, edited by Eric Bentley, 1949; as Merry-Go-Round, 1953; as La Ronde, in From the Modern Repertoire, edited by Eric Bentley, 1954; as Dance of Love, 1965; as The Round Dance, in The Round Dance and Other Plays, 1982.

Lebendige Stunden (includes Die Frau mit dem Dolche, Die letzten Masken, Literatur, Lebendige Stunden). 1902; as Living Hours (includes The Lady with the Dagger, Last Masks, Literature, Living Hours), 1913.

Der einsame Weg. 1904; as The Lonely Way, 1904; as The Lonely Road, 1985.

Marionetten (includes Der Puppenspieler, Der tapfere Cassian, Zum grossen Wurstel). 1906; revised version of Der tapfere Cassian, music by Oscar Straus, 1909; translated as Gallant Cassian, 1914.

Zwischenspiel (produced 1905). 1906; as Intermezzo, in Three Plays, 1915.

Der Ruf des Lebens (produced 1906). 1906.

Komtesse Mizzi; oder, Der Familientag (produced 1909). 1909; asCountess Mizzie, 1907, in Three Plays, 1915; as Countess Mitzi; or, the Family Reunion, revised translation, in Plays and Stories, 1982.

Der Schleier der Pierrette, music by Ernst von Dohnanyi (produced 1910). 1910.

Der junge Medardus (produced 1910). 1910.

The Green Cockatoo and Other Plays (includes Paracelsus andThe Mate). 1910.

Das weite Land (produced 1911). 1911; as Undiscovered Country, 1980.

Professor Bernhardi (produced 1912). 1912; translated as Professor Bernhardi, 1913.

Komödie der Worte (includes Stunde des Erkennens, Grosse Szene, Das Bacchusfest; produced simultaneously 1915). 1915; as Comedies of Words and Other Plays (includes The Hour of Recognition, The Big Scene, The Festival of Bacchus), 1917. Fink und Fliederbusch (produced 1917). 19l7.

Three Plays (includes The Lonely Way, Intermezzo, Countess Mizzi). 1915.

Die Schwestern; oder, Casanova in Spa (produced 1920). 1919.

Komödie der Verführung (produced 1924). 1924.

Der Gang zum Weiher (produced 1931). 1926.

Im Spiel der Sommerlüfte (produced 1929). 1930; as Summer Breeze, 1989.

Zug der Schatten, edited by Françoise Derre. 1970.

The Round Dance and Other Plays (includes Anatol and Love Games). 1982.


Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken: Aphorismen und Fragmente. 1927.

Der Geist im Wort und der Geist in der Tat. 1927; as The Mind in Words and Action: Preliminary Remarks Concerning Two Diagrams, 1972.

Über Krieg und Frieden. 1939; as Some Day Peace Will Return: Notes on Peace and War, 1972.

Breifwechsel, with Otto Brahm, edited by Oskar Seidlin. 1953; revised edition, 1964.

Briefwechsel, with Georg Brandes, edited by Kurt Bergel. 1956.

Briefwechsel, with Hugo von Hofmannsthal, edited by ThereseNickl and Heinrich Schnitzler. 1964.

Jugend in Wien: Eine Autobiographie, edited by Therese Nickl and Heinrich Schnitzler. 1968; as My Youth in Vienna, 1971.

Liebe, die starb vor der Zeit: Ein Briefwechsel, with Olga Waissnix, edited by Therese Nickl and Heinrich Schnitzler. 1970.

Briefwechsel, with Max Reinhardt, edited by Renate Wagner. 1971.

Correspondence, with Raoul Auernheimer, edited by David G. Daviau and Jorun B. Johns. 1972.

Briefe 1875-1912, edited by Therese Nickl and HeinrichSchnitzler. 1981.

Tagebuch 1909-1912, edited by Peter M. Braunworth and others.1981; further volumes: 1913-1916, 1983, 1917-1919, 1985; 1879-1892, 1987.

Beziehungen und Einsamkeiten: Aphorismen, edited by ClemensEich. 1987.

Briefe 1913-1931, edited by Peter M. Braunworth and others. 1984.



An Annotated Schnitzler Bibliography by Richard H. Allen, 1966; An Annotated Schnitzler Bibliography 1965-1977 by Jeffrey B. Berlin, 1978.

Critical Studies:

Schnitzler by Sol Liptzin, 1932; Studies in Schnitzler by H. W. Reichart and Herman Salinger, 1963; The Concept of the Physician in the Writings of Hans Carossa and Schnitzler by Marie P. Alter, 1971; Schnitzler: A Critical Study by Martin Swales, 1971; Schnitzler by R. Urbach, 1971; Schnitzler by Richard Urbach, translated by Donald G. Daviau, 1973; The Late Dramatic Works of Schnitzler by Brigitte L. Schneider-Halvorson, 1983; Schnitzler and His Age: Intellectual and Artistic Currents edited by Petrus W. Tax and Richard H. Lawson, 1984; Schnitzler and the Crisis of Musical Culture by Marc A. Weiner, 1986; Schnitzler by Michaela L. Perlmann, 1987; Hauptmann, Wedekind and Schnitzler by Peter Skrine, 1989; Deadly Dishonor: The Duel and the Honor Code in the Works of Schnitzler by Brenda Keiser, 1990; Schnitzler's Vienna: Image of a Society by Bruce Thompson, 1990; Schnitzler, Hoffmansthal and the Austrian Theatre by W. E. Yates, 1992; Political Dimensions of Arthur Schnitzler's Late Fiction by Felix W. Tweraser, 1997; Arthur Schnitzler's Late Plays: A Critical Study by G. J. Weinberger, 1997.

* * *

Arthur Schnitzler was one of the most prominent authors writing in Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century, during the final years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Because so many of his works are set in his own contemporary city, he has come to be regarded as the recreator of a social world long since past. As the only true exponent of social realism in Vienna at the time, he provides a unique portrayal of the life pursued by particular social groups. But Schnitzler offers something more than just a chronicle of Viennese clichés, for the overall impression created in his works is of a penetratingly critical examination of society. Moreover his understanding of human nature and his skill as an interpreter of the individual consciousness lend his works the quality of universality, which has ensured their enduring success and popularity.

In many of his shorter prose works Schnitzler's main concern is with the individual psyche, rather than with the wider social scene. Some of his psychological studies, such as "Flowers," "Dying," and "The Murderer," take the reader into the minds of characters suffering from neurotic or psychotic disorders. Through his exposition of a character's consciousness via interior monologue, Schnitzler enables the reader to experience directly a psychotic condition. Such stories read like case histories; and as works of literature they have their limitations, for they are written in a cold, analytical style, involving a clinical exposition of symptoms. Nevertheless, the meticulous accuracy with which these studies are drawn testify to Schnitzler's thorough knowledge of depth psychology, and many of them reflect Freudian theories and discoveries. For example, the story "The Son" describes an example of a psychopathological condition induced by infantile trauma. In Flucht in die Finsternis (Flight into Darkness) he presents a remarkably accurate picture of paranoid schizophrenia, so convincingly that the lay reader can follow the mental processes taking place and experience the condition at first hand.

It has been suggested that the prevalence in Schnitzler's works of illness, decay, and death reflect the decadent and sickly mood of the fin de siecle. In his most successful stories the study of the psyche is also blended with an indication of the social sources of psychological maladies. In Fräulein Else he affords the reader direct access to the mental processes of a repressed Oedipal complex, but because Else's condition is partly the result of her social situation, the social values of the time are exposed and condemned. Frau Beate und ihr Sohn (Beatrice) is a frank and powerful study of a woman's discovery of her own sensual nature, but the exposure of the facade of bourgeois respectability broadens the scope of the work beyond its essential psychological elements. Rhapsody is primarily a study of a marital relationship that exposes the unconscious drives in the human soul; but as an excursion into the sordid establishments of the sexual underworld it also explores the dark, unsavory world of Viennese society, from prostitution and consequent disease to decadent orgies involving the highest aristocracy.

Several early plays contributed most to the establishment of Schnitzler's reputation abroad. Because of the nature of their theme—the relationship between the sexes—Schnitzler has inevitably come to be seen as a writer primarily concerned with sexuality. In his treatment of sexual themes Schnitzler tends to sympathize with the female victims of social forces. Prominent examples are afforded by the various "sweet girls" who are to be found in many of his earlier works. But two of his most compassionately drawn female portraits are the heroines of his two major prose works about women, Frau Bertha Garlan and Therese. In the story of the widow Bertha Garlan, Schnitzler explores the gradual reawakening of sexual feelings after a period of abstinence. At the same time he exposes a social injustice, the conventional double standard that condemns women for attempting to grasp the pleasure that is freely available to the male. Not all of his works focus on women's problems or on specific social issues. Casanovas Heimfahrt (Casanova's Homecoming) offers a penetrating study of the personality of the ageing libertine, and in the story Doktor Gräsler he provides a sensitive and moving treatment of a lonely, melancholy bachelor who, shy of marriage, fights with an intelligent, much younger woman. Most frequently, however, Schnitzler explores relationships within the specific social context of a strict moral code. Beneath the facade of bourgeois respectability, natural urges assert themselves, but because of the dominance of an unnatural code, the result is often hypocrisy, deception, and frustration.

The social world presented in Schnitzler's works is predominantly that of the bourgeoisie, occasionally the "little world" of the lower middle classes of the suburbs, but mainly the "big world" of the upper bourgeoisie, the cultured professional families and the wealthy industrialists of the inner city. The latter is presented particularly in his major social dramas, in which Schnitzler exposes the prejudices at the heart of bourgeois conventions. In his plays Schnitzler uses stage directions to convey the attitudes of his characters, and so to penetrate the facade of their public behavior. This is paralleled in his prose works by a meticulous attention to gestures and facial expressions. The first-hand rendering of thought processes also reveals the hidden truths behind insincere role-playing in interpersonal relationships ("The Dead Are Silent") and behind the veneer of politeness adopted during social encounters and public behavior. The superficial charm and cowardly hypocrisy, the politeness and prim respectability adopted during social encounters, constitute the hollow facade of the army officer, the liberal poseur, the progressive bourgeois industrialist, the primly respectable widow, and the secret adulteress. One of the major institutions exposed by Schnitzler is the Imperial Army, for example in the stories Leutnant Gustl (None But the Brave) and Spiel im Morgengrauen (Daybreak). Schnitzler's hostility towards militarism is expressed in his highly critical presentation of army life and of the temperament of the typical army officer, but most effectively it is shown in his condemnation of an outmoded and inhuman code of honor that made such harsh demands of its unfortunate victims.

Schnitzler's account of his contemporary society aligns him with the realists of the late nineteenth century. Yet his realism is a very limited and refined form of referential realism. Far from describing in detail its institutions or geographical features, he is content to evoke the atmosphere of his native city. Moreover, despite his preoccupation with sexual themes, there is little attempt to shock the reader, for he normally treats sexual feelings and behavior with tact and discretion. Schnitzler focuses on social values and norms. Thus he comes across as the social commentator and social critic rather than the realist, presenting a society whose codes of conduct contribute to a social facade that is inimical to the natural and healthy development of the individual and incompatible with openness, sincerity, and genuineness in public life.

—Bruce Thompson

See the essay on None But the Brave.

Schnitzler, Arthur

views updated May 23 2018


SCHNITZLER, ARTHUR (1862–1931), Austrian playwright and novelist.

Arthur Schnitzler was a Viennese writer very popular before World War I for his "decadent" linkage of love, sexuality, and death. Some historians regard him as a voice of prewar culture at a peak of supposedly peaceful bourgeois creativity. Literary critics tend to set him aside as a marginal figure of emergent modernism, notable for some stream-of-consciousness narration (the novellas Lieutenant Gustl, 1900, and Fraülein Else, 1924; translated as Viennese Novellettes, 1931) and for allegedly Freudian treatment of the unconscious. Some feminists have admired his works for showing women who dream of erotic love only to be sexually used and discarded by men. Promiscuity of both sexes is another of his themes, most notorious in the play Round Dance (1900; Reigen), in which a circle of changing partners in compulsive coition enacted on stage—whore with a soldier at the outset, whore with a count at the end—shows love as bodies in a monotonous Totentanz, a dance of death.

Schnitzler also picked apart concepts of nationalism, both German and Jewish, in such works as the play Professor Bernhardi (1912) and the novel The Way to the Open (1908; Der Weg ins Freie,). His portrayals of manly violence, especially in dueling but also in war—particularly in Young Medardus (1910; Der Junge Medardus), a historical drama of Austria in the Napoleonic era—mocked the idea that honor finds exalted expression in combat, one on one or en masse. In World War I industrialized slaughter disillusioned multitudes of belief in such exaltation; Schnitzler's works gave prewar audiences a slightly subversive anticipation of such disillusionment. The fictive quality of collective entities that summon men to war—das Volk (the people), race, nation, fatherland—is emphasized in his private writings but only hinted in his public dramas and stories.

Schnitzler's father was a poor Jew who migrated from Hungary to Vienna, capital of the Habsburg Empire, abandoned the Yiddish and Magyar languages in favor of German, became a physician, and worked his way to a peak position in laryngology, treating actors and singers and harboring frustrated ambitions as a writer. Arthur too became a laryngologist, even working for a time in his father's clinic, and developed the use of hypnosis in treating speech problems that were psychological, without apparent organic cause. Father-son rivalry helped to make Arthur, the pampered son of a self-made magnate, disapprove his way of life as a womanizing playboy and to fear that he was a dilettante in medicine and in writing. That experience generated plays and stories that far surpassed the fame of a grudging father. Many readers, including the psychologist Theodor Reik and Sigmund Freud himself, have noted an affinity with Freudian ideas in Schnitzler's writing. Schnitzler disapproved their claim of affinity, or rather of scientific support for the writer's intuitive insights. "I have told Reik," he wrote to an inquirer, "that the Freudian methods of interpretation—from however deep a knowledge of human nature they may have emerged in their basic insights—will sometime signify to him not the one and the only saving way, but one among others, one that leads into the mystery of the writer's creativity, but also time and again leads past that into vagueness and error" (quoted in Sherman, pp. 201–202).

In My Youth in Vienna (Jugend in Wien), an autobiography written for posthumous publication, Schnitzler set apart the homeland (Heimat) that he loved—Vienna and environs—from the fatherland (Vaterland) of nationalist striving for one big German state, which he deplored. He clung nostalgically to the multinational coexistence that Habsburg Austria tried to maintain against German chauvinists and small-state nationalists, each against all, hastening the Habsburg collapse and the eruption of total war. He sympathized with the pacifist Bertha von Suttner, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 for writing against the arms race that portended war, but Schnitzler sympathized in private, smiling at her impracticality. His resistance to the anti-Semitism that attended nationalist politics was publicly expressed in Professor Bernhardi (banned in Vienna for its anti-Catholic passages) and in The Way to the Open, which has a pioneering diversity of Jewish characters instead of traditional stereotypes.

World War I made his works seem superficial, dated entertainments of a bygone time and place. Moviemakers have contributed to that reputation by occasional use of his style of linking prurience with mystery, to show love as sex and soul-searching in the absence of soul. In Youth in Vienna, Schnitzler took note of his reputation—"I am conscious of being an artist not of the first rank"—as he asked posterity to read his autobiography as a document of the age, and arguments of that sort persist among critics striving in his behalf. Stanley Elkin, for example, introduces an American selection of his work with condescension: "His plays remain chiefly, well, charming and conventional…. What we're talking about finally is melodramatics, soap opera, the peculiar pulled punches of all distinctly social art forms" (Elkin, foreword to Plays and Stories, pp. xi–xii). Similarly, the German critic Friedrich Torberg's afterword to Schnitzler's autobiography essentially characterizes him as entertainer who did transient service to a bygone social order. Torberg is somewhat defensive in comparing Schnitzler's achievement to Chekov's. Schnitzler, Torberg argues, does not belong with the great modernists who expressed profound revulsion toward the culture of "Crapland" ("Kakania," Robert Musil's sardonic name for the Habsburg Dual Monarchy), but the ephemeral amusements he catered to may show the global future of art more than one would like to imagine.

See alsoFreud, Sigmund; Hofmannsthal, Hugo von; Modernism; Vienna.


Primary Sources

Schnitzler, Arthur. Viennese Novelettes. New York, 1931.

——. Jugend in Wien: Eine Autobiographie. Edited by Friedrich Torberg. Vienna, 1968.

——. My Youth in Vienna. Translated by Catherine Hutter. Foreword by A. J. P. Taylor. London, 1971.

——. The Road to the Open. Translated by Horace Samuel. Forward by William M. Johnston. Evanston, Ill., 1991; and Berkeley, Calif., 1992.

——. Plays and Stories. Edited by Egon Schwarz. Foreword by Stanley Elkin. Vol. 55 of The German Library series. New York, 1998.

Secondary Sources

Farese, Guiseppe. Arthur Schnitzler: Ein Lieben in Wien, 1862–1931. Munich, 1999.

Fliedl, Konstanze. Arthur Schnitzler: Poetik der Erinnerung. Vienna, 1997.

Gay, Peter. Schnitzler's Century: The Making of Middle-Class Culture, 1815–1914. New York, 2002.

Lindren, Irène. "Seh'n Sie, das Berühmtwerden ist doch nich so leicht!" Arthur Schnitzler über sein literarisches Schaffen. Frankfurt am Main, 2002.

Sherman, Murray H. "Reik, Schnitzler, Freud, and 'The Murderer': The Limits of Insight in Psychoanalysis." Modern Austrian Literature 10, no. 3/4 (1977), 195–216.

Swales, Martin. Arthur Schnitzler: A Critical Study. Oxford, U.K., 1971.

Thompson, Bruce. Schnitzler's Vienna: Image of a Society. London, 1990.

David Joravsky

Schnitzler, Arthur

views updated Jun 11 2018


SCHNITZLER, ARTHUR (1862–1931), Austrian playwright and author. Schnitzler's father, Professor Johann Schnitzler (1835–1593), was an eminent Viennese throat specialist. Since his patients included dramatic and operatic stars, young Schnitzler was in constant contact with theatrical life and began writing plays while still a youth. After qualifying as a physician at the University of Vienna, he edited the medical journal Internationale klinische Rundschau (1887–94). His own professional articles dealt mainly with psychotherapy, and his friend Sigmund *Freud later paid tribute to his poetic intuition.

In 1893 Schnitzler published a collection of seven short plays titled Anatol after the central character, an elegant philanderer. The book had a prologue in verse by Hugo von *Hofmannsthal. His first full-length play, Das Maerchen (1894), was a failure, but Liebelei, produced in 1895 at the Viennese Burg-theater, proved so successful that Schnitzler decided to devote himself almost entirely to writing. Reigen (1900), a series of interconnected dialogues satirizing conventional love affairs, gave rise to a lawsuit in Berlin. (Years later Max Ophuels produced Liebelei as a comedy and, after World War ii, turned Reigen into the internationally successful film, La Ronde.)

As Schnitzler grew older, the inconstant bachelor and the single girl ceased to occupy the center of his attention, and he became increasingly interested in relations between husband and wife. In many of his works, especially in the full-length plays Der einsame Weg (1904), Zwischenspiel (1906), Der Ruf des Lebens (1906), and Das weite Land (1911), he explored with growing sensitivity the problems of married life. In groping for a satisfactory substitute for the traditional marital relationship and for a morality better adapted to 20th-century psychology, he pursued various, amoral bypaths, but ultimately came to reject all moral systems, old and new alike. In the years before World War i his plays were among those most often performed on the German and Austrian stage. He was also writing some of the novellas which were always a favorite genre and included Lieutenant Gustl (1901), Casanovas Heimfahrt (1918), and Fraeulein Else (1924).

In 1912 Schnitzler dramatized a problem of medical ethics in Professor Bernhardi. In this play a physician, who regards it as his duty to relieve the final hours of a dying man, prevents a Catholic priest from administering the last rites, fearing that this might subject his patient to unnecessary suffering. Since the physician is a Jew, he becomes a target for antisemitic attacks. Here, as in the novel Der Weg ins Freie (1908), Schnitzler expressed his views on the place of the Jew in modern life. He held that antisemitism was the natural outcome of the Jews' historical position as a minority group in every land, and that no amount of Jewish or Christian sentimentality would eradicate anti-Jewish prejudice. He had a positive outlook on the issue of Jewish survival and derided those Jews who hid their origin. He prophesied that, as the liberals and Pan-Germans had betrayed them, so would the politicians of the left. Schnitzler accepted neither Zionism nor assimilation as a solution, believing that each individual had to make his own adjustment. For himself, he preferred to continue the struggle against his enemies in Vienna, where he felt himself at home.


R.H. Allen, An Annotated Arthur Schnitzler Bibliography (1966); J. Koerner, Arthur Schnitzlers Gestalten und Probleme (1921); R. Specht, Arthur Schnitzler (Ger., 1922); W. Mann, in: G. Krojanker (ed.), Juden in der deutschen Literatur (1926), 207–18; S. Liptzin, Arthur Schnitzler (Eng., 1932); H. Kohn, Karl Kraus, Arthur Schnitzler, Otto Weininger; aus dem juedischen Wien der Jahrhundertwende (1962), 13–29; O. Schnitzler, Spiegelbild der Freundschaft (1962); H.W. Reichert and H. Salinger (eds.), Studies in Arthur Schnitzler: Centennial Commemorative Volume (1963); H. Zohn, Wiener Juden in der deutschen Literatur (1964), 9–18; G. Baumann, Arthur Schnitzler (Ger., 1965); W.H. Rey, Arthur Schnitzler; die spaete Prosa als Gipfel seines Schaffens (1968); H. Kohn, in: ylbi, 6 (1961), 152–69.

[Sol Liptzin]

Arthur Schnitzler

views updated Jun 08 2018

Arthur Schnitzler

The Austrian dramatist and novelist Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) is at his best in one-act plays and novellas that often deal with extreme situations—death, sexual conflicts, and neurotic and even psychotic states.

Born of Jewish parents in Vienna, where he spent almost his entire life as a physician, Arthur Schnitzler looked upon himself primarily as a scientist and never gave up his medical practice. His first creative period (1893-1900) saw the publication of numerous poems and sketches, largely centered on themes of infidelity and jealousy, and two major works, his first novella, Sterben (1894; Dying), and his first successful play, Anatol (1893).

In the mid-1890s Schnitzler was associated for a short time with a literary movement of impressionist writers, including Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who were violently opposed to the naturalism then in vogue in Berlin. But soon he broke away from café society—the Jung-Wien group, which gathered in Vienna's famous Café Griensteidl—and he never again joined any literary circle.

The highlight of Schnitzler's second phase (1900-1912) was his famous play Reigen (1900; La Ronde), which Eric Bentley has called "a great 'comedy' of sexual promiscuity." Banned, attacked, censored on its first appearance, and later withdrawn by Schnitzler himself, it has gradually won the reputation of a masterpiece of modern drama. La Ronde, in 10 brief dialogues between a man and a woman, reveals the attitudes of partners from all social classes before and after the act of love. Modern critics no longer see this play as pornographic but rather as a bitter, witty, and yet tender and melancholy examination of the human condition expressed through the metaphor of man's endless "round dance" of sexuality and desire.

As a writer of fiction, Schnitzler developed early in his career the technique known as stream of consciousness and later made famous by James Joyce. The best examples are two of his stories, Leutnant Gustl (1900; None but the Brave) and Fräulein Else (1925). The former is a long interior monologue describing an unpleasant young lieutenant who, insulted by a baker, broods until he reaches the decision to commit suicide in order to preserve his honor, only to be saved accidentally by the knowledge that the baker has died of a heart attack. In Fräulein Else Schnitzler used the stream-of-consciousness technique to reveal a psychotic young girl's motives for disrobing in a hotel lobby.

Schnitzler's third and last period, from 1912 to the time of his death, has often been referred to as "retrospective." To this phase belong such masterpieces as Frau Beate und ihr Sohn (1913; Beatrice) and Casanovas Heimfahrt (1918; Casanova's Homecoming) and the novella Traumgekrönt (1925; Rhapsody). In two important works, his long autobiographical novel, Der Weg ins Freie (1908; The Road to the Open), and the play Professor Bernhardi (1913), Schnitzler deals with racial and religious prejudice, specifically with anti-Semitism, which he sees as a problem of general human concern. He chooses many of his characters from the medical profession and assigns to them the role of the raisonneur who expresses his own tolerant views on life and love.

Further Reading

Schnitzler's My Youth in Vienna, translated by Catherine Hutter (1970), is his diary of his early years, through the 1870s. The most complete study of him in English is Solomon Liptzin, Arthur Schnitzler (1932). A good sampling of critical investigations is the eight papers delivered at the University of Kentucky in 1962: Studies in Arthur Schnitzler: Centennial Commemorative Volume, edited by Herbert W. Reichert and Herman Salinger (1963). The most comprehensive and reliable guide to the literature by and about Schnitzler is Richard H. Allen, An Annotated Arthur Schnitzler Bibliography 1879-1965 (1966).

Additional Sources

Psychoanalysis and old Vienna: Freud, Reik, Schnitzler, Kraus, New York: Human Sciences Press, 1978. □

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