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“Between the Times”: Embattled Temporalities and Anti-Historicism in Interwar Europe

GoTriple's project summary

The inter-war period in Europe – politically, ideologically, and socially – has remained as if a misfit in our narrative schemes of modern history. While various aspects of its cultural and intellectual histories have intrigued scholars for decades, one of the key experiences that shaped its self-perception as a misfit – the new sense of human time as fractured, of human history as disrupted – has received only occasional attention.The proposed study begins with a hypothesis that the currents of temporal rupture ubiquitous in inter-war European thought produced an entire spectrum of essentially connected utterances in different creative and intellectual fields that were highly expressive of the predicaments and experiences of the period. It will seek to reconstruct a topology of this new temporal imagination, with a particular emphasis on the junctions between different fields – disciplines ranging from jurisprudence to philosophy, from sociology to literary theory, visual arts, literature, drama and music – and modes of expressing novel visions of time. Focusing on a number of groupings as well as individuals, on Western and Eastern European authors, it sets out to investigate, what did the new concepts of time specifically presume, entail and imply? How and through which references were they communicated? What were the aims of the authors in contesting the linear visions and putting forth novel notions of time? In what ways were the ideas of a temporal void related to the myriad of apocalyptic and eschatological expectations at the time? It will also inquire into the implications of anti-historicist perceptions of temporality for contemporary political ideas, both on the Right, Left, and centre. What was the role of anti-teleological discourses in the construction of the crisis ubiquitously present in inter-war debates? What was the political language encoded in the representations of ruptured time?

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