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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Janet Stewart

Stewart, Janet C. (1998). 'Talking of Modernity: The Viennese Vortrag as Form'. German Life and Letters 51(4): 455-469.

Author(s) from Durham


As part of his project to define the meaning of modernity in fin de siècle Vienna, Adolf Loos (1870–1933) held lectures in cities throughout Europe. Although the lecture represented an important vehicle for the dissemination of his ideas and those of others, there is a lack of research into the lecture form in modernity. In the light of the fluid boundary between the lecture and the essay in Loos’s œuvre, this article extends Adorno’s analysis of the modernity of the essay form to the lecture, showing that both forms are embedded in the socio-cultural location of the metropolis. It then investigates the nature of the distinction between the essay and the lecture, rejecting an explanation founded on the difference between text and speech in favour of a more complex model based on the ‘language-game’ (Wittgenstein, 1953). This model allows exploration of self-presentation (Goffmann, 1959) through the performance of the lecture and also affords us insight into the manner in which the lecture form encouraged interdisciplinary exchanges via the circulation of individuals in modernity (Simmel, 1958), providing the foundation for a more detailed analysis of the lecture as form.