The culture of fin de siècle Vienna continues to fascinate and has been examined at length. There are indeed massive studies of Freud, Mahler, Loos, Klimt, and many other notables from that era. But these studies often ignore the religious dimension of Viennese modernist culture, implying -- if not arguing outright -- that "modernism" and "religion" are contrary, even hostile, categories.
Taking a different tack, Robert Weldon Whalen in Sacred Spring
documents the important thesis that Viennese modernism, far from being secular, was in fact a deeply religious movement. In vivid language Whalen examines this era of "being torn apart and rising again," describing those Viennese who were on the cutting edge of modern art and thought. Though the book focuses on avant-garde art, it also connects materials from journalism, popular culture, and contemporary politics in fascinating ways.
Students of modernism, the arts, and European cultural history will find that Sacred Spring
offers an intriguing, compelling perspective on their subjects. Featuring a beautifully written narrative, the book will also appeal to readers interested in the intersection of culture and faith, in the connection between the arts and the sacred.
"A rare work of scholarship that is also a pleasure to read."
— Fordham University
"Robert Whalen's Sacred Spring is an entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking portrait of cultural life in fin de siècle Vienna, replete with evocations of its most fascinating characters: Klimt, Freud, Schoenberg, Schiele, Mahler, Kokoschka, and a host of others. Whalen uses their stories to argue that the birth of 'modernism' was a period of intense spiritual interest — in many ways similar to the 'postmodern' world of our own turn of the century."
— Wake Forest University
"Robert Weldon Whalen gives a comprehensive résumé of the central figures and movements associated with turn-of-the-century Vienna, in addition to a reevaluation of the scholarship on Viennese modernism. Sacred Spring provides a welcome overview of the period and the critical responses that it continues to evoke."
Scott H. Moore
— Baylor University
"Whalen's Sacred Spring demands that we reconsider much that we thought we knew about Viennese modernism. Contrary to the traditional assumption that Viennese art abandoned religion, Whalen argues that art in fin de siècle Vienna 'took on the echo of the divine.' Students of art, literature, music, politics, philosophy, and theology will be fascinated by Whalen's provocative presentation of Viennese modernism as a religious phenomenon. Whalen's knowledge of the primary sources is impressive, and even though some of his interpretations seem as fantastic as Vienna itself, the work as a whole has a magical and symphonic character to it. Even those who disagree with his more daring interpretations will find this text to be a feast for reflection and reconsideration, and many readers will find themselves switching on Mahler's symphonies — as I did — long before reaching Whalen's conclusion."