Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Linguistic skepticism and the resultant awareness of the limits of language can be traced back to Hamann, Herder, and Humboldt, through Romanticism and French Symbolism, up to modern times. What has come to be called the crisis of language (Sprachkrise) can be viewed as one segment of a broader, multi-media phenomenon. The intensity of this crisis is concentrated in Austro-Hungary in the waning days of the Habsburg Monarchy. From this time forward supersensitivity to language remains a strongly Austrian phenomenon and can be followed through the European, German-language, and Austrian movements of this century, up to the founding of the Forum Stadtpark in Graz, where Handke's works first met public audience and attention. The progressive movement of linguistic awareness can be viewed logically and can be demonstrated by means of the dual methodology: referential language criticism (which refers to an extra-linguistic reality), based on the ontological theory of meaning, versus demonstrative language criticism (which is language-immanent), based on the pragmatic theory of meaning. Most writers support the referential/ontological extreme; Handke supports the demonstrative/pragmatic pole. Handke's writings begin with an early linguistically experimental period including work in all genres. The most famous work from this period is Publikumsbeschimpfung. These works are followed by a more ordered period of linguistic demonstration, most notably in the work Kaspar. Since this time Handke has concentrated on prose, film and journal forms. His literary efforts continue to present the reader consistently linguistically aware and strongly language-critical narrative. The historical overview and the theoretical and practical scrutiny of Handke's writings according to this methodology are presented as a bibliocritical narrative and are enhanced as an ordered thesaurus of work in semiotics by extensive informational appendices and bibliographies.