Emotions and Habitus of Officers in Fictional Literature
Sociology University of Graz Graz, Austria
In the new field of the sociology of emotions, the feelings related to war and the feelings of people involved in it are still scarcely dealt with. This holds also true for a historical sociology of emotions. The Habsburg Monarchy´s reckless step of going to war in 1914 was motivated by old feudal considerations of honour as much as by more "rational" thinking, if the term is appropriate at all. Since 1848 at least - the year of the revolution - Habsburg officers formed a caste separated from the rest of society (Allmayer-Beck 1987, Rothenberg 1976) and they were shaped by a military-aristocratic "habitus" (Elias) in stark contrast to that of the working bourgeois. Although more and more officers were recruited from the (lower ranks of the) bourgeoisie, got very little salary and were even too poor to be in a position to marry, they stuck to the ideals and mores of a feudal warrior caste, except in those areas where technical skills were indispensable. A habitus evolved which combined bluntness, discipline of the barracks and feudal "courage", but - an Austrian particularity - which was also opposed to "knowledge" and unable to develop qualities of good "leadership" in battle: determination and boldness often gave way to passivity, faltering and dithering in the face of battle. The causes for this to occur are not easy to find: In this paper, I try to bring some light into this matter by analyzing novels and other forms of prose fiction (Torresani, von Saar, Roth, Schnitzler, Lernet-Holenia etc.) to make visible the emotional experience and the situational constraints of Habsburg officers in their development from the middle of the 19th century to the end of the First World war. Particular emphasis is put on the characteristics of literary communication between author and audience (to inform, to entertain, to legitimize, to accuse etc.) how realistic are literary descriptions in a "field? (Bourdieu) which makes heroic exaggeration everything else but impossible?