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Form as RevoltCarl Einstein and the Ground of Modern Art$
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Sebastian Zeidler

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501702082

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501702082.001.0001

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The Lost Wanderer

The Lost Wanderer

(p.27) 1 The Lost Wanderer
Form as Revolt

Sebastian Zeidler

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines Carl Einstein's prose from the prewar period. It first considers an issue to which Einstein returns over and over again throughout his prose from the 1910s and the notes he compiled while writing it: the issue of what he variously called an origin, ground, or essence. It then discusses Einstein's conviction that the origin of anything at all is fundamentally inaccessible; at any one moment that origin is receding away from us as a causal chain whose links disappear back into the infinity of time. It also explores the generative principle of Einstein's prose, arguing that it was a fundamental ambiguity, or double sense, which was going to be a character trait of Einstein's persona: the lost wanderer. It argues that Einstein's personas keep struggling with the groundlessness that summoned them into being in the first place. Finally, the chapter explores essence in relation to Einstein's symbolism, the connection between nonessence and politics, the consequences of fanatic humorism for Einstein's prose, and why he turned from literature to art criticism.

Keywords:   prose, Carl Einstein, origin, ground, essence, infinity, lost wanderer, nonessence, fanatic humorism, art criticism

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