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The End of Modernism

Elias Canetti's Auto-da-Fé

By William Collins Donahue

302 pp., 6 x 9, 9 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5742-4
    Published: October 2020
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-7522-3
    Published: January 2003

University of North Carolina Studies in Germanic Languages and Literature

Paperback Available October 2020, but pre-order your copy today!

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Awards & distinctions

2002 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures, Modern Language Association

Nobel laureate Elias Canetti wrote his novel Auto-da-Fé (Die Blendung) when he and the twentieth century were still quite young. Rooted in the cultural crises of the Weimar period, Auto-da-Fé first received critical acclaim abroad--in England, France, and the United States--where it continues to fascinate readers of subsequent generations. The End of Modernism places this work in its cultural and philosophical contexts, situating the novel not only in relation to Canetti's considerable body of social thought, but also within larger debates on Freud and Freudianism, misogyny and modernism's "fragmented subject," anti-Semitism and the failure of humanism, contemporary philosophy and philosophical fads, and traditionalist notions of literature and escapist conceptions of history. The End of Modernism portrays Auto-da-Fé as an exemplum of "analytic modernism," and in this sense a crucial endpoint in the progression of postwar conceptions of literary modernism.

About the Author

William Collins Donahue is associate professor of German and a member of the Jewish Studies faculty at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
For more information about William Collins Donahue, visit the Author Page.


"If one has time to read only one recent English-language study of Elias Canetti's 1935 Auto-da-Fé, this would be the book. . . . no other interpretation of the novel has brought all of these contexts together as convincingly, providing the most complete overview to date of Canetti's novel as a satire of contemporary intellectual and social phenomena."--Monatshefte

"This landmark analysis of Canetti's Auto-da-Fé is nothing short of dazzling. With a sure and steady hand, William Donahue reveals the literary and cultural stakes in this maddeningly elusive but powerfully seductive novel. Identifying discourses on gender, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and anti-Semitism, he demonstrates how profoundly the work is in dialogue with the culture in which it was written, relentlessly diagnosing its discontents."--Maria Tatar, Harvard University

"A readable and fascinating book on one of the major modernist novels of the twentieth century. Donahue's literary/philosophical reading of Auto-da-Fé places this complex novel in many of the polemical currents of Canetti's day. But more importantly, Donahue is able to show how this reading also transcends the limitation of a novel of any given period, addressing major issues that remain of central importance today."--Sander L. Gilman, University of Illinois at Chicago