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The Case of LiteratureForensic Narratives from Goethe to Kafka$
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Arne Höcker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501749353

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501749353.001.0001

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The Man of Possibilities

The Man of Possibilities

Musil’s Moosbrugger

(p.190) 11 The Man of Possibilities
The Case of Literature

Arne Höcker

Cornell University Press

This chapter explores Robert Musil's case-based concept of an “imaginary precision” in the novel The Man without Qualities (1930–1943). In the 1920s and 1930s, Musil's literary production also follows the formula of contingency, which the protagonist of his novel The Man without Qualities connects with the “principle of insufficient cause.” One of the central objectives of this sprawling text is to take this principle seriously and to make it the basis for a literary program that would surpass the representation of the real world with the realization of the possible one. It is one of the major differences between Döblin and Musil's poetologies that Döblin's literary program is centered around facts and based on a material foundation, but Musil's novel is interested in that which is possible. To Döblin's call for a fantasy of facts Musil responds with the concept of fantastic precision. And whereas Döblin demands from literature to get closer to reality, Musil claims in an interview of 1926 that he is not interested “in the real explanation of real events.” In fact, Döblin's and Musil's realism can be distinguished by the opposite direction of their reference to reality.

Keywords:   Robert Musil, The Man without Qualities, literary program, poetologies, fantastic precision, literature, reality, realism, imaginary precision

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