Book Store

The Naked Truth: Viennese Modernism and the Body

The Naked Truth: Viennese Modernism and the Body

The Naked Truth: Viennese Modernism and the Body

By Alys X. George

“A sweeping survey of the primacy of the body in the Vienna modern, The Naked Truth demands a reorientation of our assumptions. This book will make a difference.” ―Scott Spector, University of Michigan

The Naked Truth offers a brilliant challenge to popular myths about fin-de-siècle Vienna. In its cross-disciplinary focus on the dissected, gendered, classed, and moving body in Viennese culture, it reads Gustav Klimt’s famous icon Nuda Veritas as a purloined image: always in plain sight but consistently overlooked. By including non-canonical women and expanding the frame beyond the political divide of 1918, George gives us a supplemental and alternative genealogy of Viennese modernism.” ―Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University

Viennese modernism is often described in terms of a fin-de-siècle fascination with the psyche. But this stereotype of the movement as essentially cerebral overlooks a rich cultural history of the body. The Naked Truth, an interdisciplinary tour de force, addresses this lacuna, fundamentally recasting the visual, literary, and performative cultures of Viennese modernism through an innovative focus on the corporeal.

Alys X. George explores the modernist focus on the flesh by turning our attention to the second Vienna medical school, which revolutionized the field of anatomy in the 1800s. As she traces the results of this materialist influence across a broad range of cultural forms—exhibitions, literature, portraiture, dance, film, and more—George brings into dialogue a diverse group of historical protagonists, from canonical figures such as Egon Schiele, Arthur Schnitzler, Joseph Roth, and Hugo von Hofmannsthal to long-overlooked ones, including author and doctor Marie Pappenheim, journalist Else Feldmann, and dancers Grete Wiesenthal, Gertrud Bodenwieser, and Hilde Holger. She deftly blends analyses of popular and “high” culture, laying to rest the notion that Viennese modernism was an exclusively male movement. The Naked Truth uncovers the complex interplay of the physical and the aesthetic that shaped modernism and offers a striking new interpretation of this fascinating moment in the history of the West.

328 pages | 43 halftones
University of Chicago, 2020
6 x 9 x 1.2 inches
ISBN 9780226669984
Art History, Viennese History, Modernism

$48.00 $48.00