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Table of contents

German Literature

By the end of the Classical period, c. A common stance of the courtly lover is long-suffering endurance of the coldness of an unapproachable, unyielding high noble lady whom he serves in the vain hope of some day winning her love. Love is suffering, sickness, and a magic spell that imposes patience and endurance on the lover. The lover, held at bay by his lady, is made to polish his speech, his manners, and his virtues to a high standard of courtly excellence. He is denied her love until he passes her tests. This typical posture of the courtly lover is found, for instance, in the verse of Reinmar von Hagenau and Heinrich von Morungen.

The idea of yoking the erotic to a program of education is foreign to modern sensibilities but consistent with a long tradition Greek and Roman of the disciplining of desire to create self-control and a mature, civil character. But the 12th century, the great divide between the ancient and the modern world, also raised individual experience of love to the level of an ideal for the first time in the West, and tensions between the artifice of love pedagogy and the experience of passion are everywhere evident in courtly literature. Courtly romance, a new narrative form in the 12th century, was the major vehicle for Middle High German Classicism.

The northern German poet Heinrich von Veldeke produced the Eneide c. It turns on the two loves of Aeneas—one passionate and destructive Dido ; the other chaste, courtly, and the foundation of family and empire Lavinia. The Trojan War was another popular theme from antiquity. But the tales received from the ancient world paled before the wild popularity of the figure of King Arthur and his knights see Arthurian legend.

A Swabian knight, poet, theoretician of love, and writer of Minnesang courtly love lyrics , Hartmann von Aue was the first to bring the new tales of King Arthur to Germany. These works created a new structure for narrative and with it a new conception of the destiny of the hero: his education and gradual achievement of ethical perfection through making amends for shameful conduct, expunging guilt, resisting temptation, and avoiding behaviour conducive to tragic failure. In Iwein a great knight falls from grace by disregarding a seemingly trivial deadline. Restored by a magic salve and accompanied by a lion whom he has helped fight a dragon, he sets out on a series of grand chivalric undertakings, rescuing the helpless and those unjustly accused.

Eventually, his acts of justice and compassion bring about a reconciliation with his wife. Gregorius is a chivalric-Christian adaptation of the Oedipus story, a tale of double incest in which the tragic hero, born from an incestuous union and later wed to his own mother, is raised to the position of pope after 17 years of suicidal penance for his sins as knight and lover. The only medicine that can cure his disease is the blood of a virgin willing to sacrifice herself for him.

The youngest daughter of the family that takes him in at once offers herself and refuses to take no for an answer. Ultimately her sacrifice is rejected and the will accepted in place of the deed. Miraculously cured, the grand lord marries the young peasant girl. His younger contemporary, Gottfried von Strassburg, crowned him with the laurel wreath and praised him extravagantly.

The high point of Classical Middle High German literature is the work of the two great literary rivals Wolfram von Eschenbach and Gottfried von Strassburg. Wolfram presents himself as an unlearned, rough-cut genius:. I am Wolfram von Eschenbach, and I know a thing or two about poetry. His works, with a high ethical seriousness at their core, are full of a robust humour that can shade into the grotesque. Wolfram probably stopped working on Willehalm and Titurel at some time after In addition to these works, he composed a number of lyric poems. It is a kind of summation of the human condition in its 12th-century embodiment: the sinful knight questing to reconcile the demands of God with those of life in the world.

Parzival is the simpleton with a grand destiny. He becomes king of the Grail castle and overcomes his youthful sins by steadfastly loving his wife, by learning discipline, compassion, and courtesy, and by remaining loyal to his own human destiny as knight and fighter. The work contains a grand symbol of this obligation to maintain life and destiny, raised to the level of a religious symbol: the Holy Grail.

Parzival becomes king of the Grail by remaining a knight and loyal husband. Gottfried died about without completing it.

The Arrow and the Lyre

It is a tragedy of adulterous love whose hero is fatally bound by a love potion to Isolde, the wife of King Marke of England. The work is revolutionary in many ways. The concept of love in Tristan crosses the aforementioned great divide between the ancient world in which love was regarded as an ennobling, educating force and the modern world which perceived love as obsessive, a lofty but destructive passion.

Tragic love is still ennobling, but it ennobles by glorifying suffering, melancholy, death, and the fusing of joy and sorrow in love. The work is also revolutionary in its style and form. It is poetry of the highest order. The language of secular narrative poetry in Germany was a newborn, so to speak; at least it was no more than half a generation old. But in Tristan und Isolde the German language achieves a high point of elegance, allusiveness, and sophistication that it would not reach again until the late 18th and 19th centuries. Gottfried studied in the humanistic Latin schools of France or in those of Germany, and he brought a wealth of Classical knowledge to his composition.

In Tristan the traditions of Classical Latin literature inform, deepen, and strengthen German poetry. The hero is no longer a chivalric knight earning fame and love by combat but rather a courtier and an artist who makes his way in the life of a royal court by eloquence and talent, by his skill in music and the hunt. As in any court novel, deceit loses some of its negative moral charge and becomes a skill parallel to art and learning. Tristan and Isolde become tricksters and illusion makers in order to conceal their affair from her husband and his uncle, the cuckold King Marke.

The other major epic from this remarkable decade, —10, takes the reader into a social and ethical world designed as the antithesis to that of the civilized, refined courtesy of the romance. The hero, Siegfried, arouses envy and suspicion by marrying Kriemhild, sister of King Gunther of the Burgundians. Her family, led by the dark assassin Hagen, murders him treacherously and steals the fabulous Nibelung treasure. Years later she remarries, lures her family to visit, and exacts her revenge in a disastrous battle that leaves thousands on both sides dead, including all the protagonists.

Parzival progresses from an unthinking brutality to a sensitive, compassionate humanity. Kriemhild goes in the opposite direction; she reverts from courtly modesty to mayhem and raving. The work is a reactionary rejection of the civilizing trends advocated by courtly literature. It returns to the heroic Germanic past to construct a doomed world where the tragic demise of whole peoples was inevitable and glorious at the same time, courteousness was stupidity, and trust and love were childishly naive.

The flowering of Middle High German courtly literature lasted about 60 years. In its wake literature did not subside; it mushroomed. But these latecomer authors, interesting as their works can be, are imitators, and, in the shadow of a Classical period, they sensed their own mediocrity. His magnum opus is Der Trojanerkrieg, a courtly retelling of the Trojan War in an epic poem of more than 40, lines Parzival was long at about 25, lines.

The autumn of courtly forms corresponded to a decline in the political position of Germany brought about by the victory of the papacy in the Investiture Controversy and the consequent weakening of central political authority. The last great emperor of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, Frederick II —50 , moved the imperial residence to Sicily. This period set loose on Germany the plagues that ravaged the political life of that country until its reunification in — political fragmentation, provincialism, dependence on Italian and French culture, and a lack of confidence in its own culture that alternated with convulsive attempts to establish German culture and national identity.

The late Middle Ages in Europe was a time of decadence and regeneration. A proliferation of literary forms, including didactic literature, prose renderings of classic works, and mystical tracts, was one symptom of this double tendency. Perched significantly on the watershed between a dying and a rising culture, Johannes von Tepl made his work, written about , a monument to his young wife, Margaretha, who had recently died in childbirth. Death answers his complaints, and a debate follows in which Johannes defends the value of human life against its attacker, Death. God judges the debate and gives victory to Death but honour to man.

The Renaissance in Germany—rich in art, architecture, and learned humanist writings—was poor in German-language literature. Works from Italy were eagerly received and translated, especially those of Petrarch, Boccaccio, and the humanist scholar Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini. For Germany the 16th century was an age of satire.

Johann Fausten This story of a doctor whose thirst for knowledge leads him to make a pact with the Devil was to supply Goethe with the outline of his drama Faust. The culture of Germany in the 16th century stood in the shadow of the Protestant Reformation, which was initiated by the German monk Martin Luther in Luther contributed to the development of the German language in his translation of the Bible, one of the vital forces creating a standard language in a Germany whose culture was essentially regional and whose language was essentially a collection of local dialects.

An extensive body of polemical literature served the causes of the parties to the religious schism initiated by Luther. In the early modern period, as in various periods before and after, Germany was subject to division and party wrangling. The political and social consequences of the Reformation reached with devastating effect into the 17th and early 18th centuries. German literature of the Baroque period c. It was an age of contradictions and extremes: A wealthy, sophisticated, overly ornate court society coexisted with political chaos and destructive warfare.

A courtly literature of sublime, chivalric ideals and romances that were played out in utopian landscapes thrived opposite a court drama obsessed with violence, intrigue, murder, and betrayal. Extremes of worldliness met extremes of religiosity. The period produced one major work that quintessentially expressed the chaotic extravagance and deep wretchedness of life in Germany in the 17th century: the novel Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus ; The Adventurous Simplicissimus by Hans Jacob Christoph von Grimmelshausen.

Erotic adventures in Paris leave him with a disfiguring disease. He makes visits to utopian communities. One of them is populated by mermen and mermaids and located at the bottom of a lake in the Black Forest. The only controlling logic of the work is unpredictability. There is no development of character, no movement toward an ethical goal, only the changing of masks.

At each point where a stable life could develop, some unpredictable catastrophe interferes, often brought about by the war.

In the end, the fool-hero abandons the treacherous world and retreats to the forest, where he lives as a religious hermit. Alongside Grimmelshausen, other Baroque writers who deserve mention are the poet and poetic theorist Martin Opitz, who introduced foreign literary models and rules into German poetry, and the lyric poet and dramatist Andreas Gryphius, who wrote sonnets and tragedies imbued with a deep Christian faith. The era of confessional conflict and war had come to an end in , but urban culture continued to decline, and the empire became a country of innumerable courts.

Dependent mostly upon princely patronage, cultural life became decentralized and very provincial. Enlightenment optimism envisioned progress as attainable through education and science. To Leibniz this was the best of all possible worlds. He constructed a model for the universe as an absolutist state with God as the monarch, or central monad, which all other monads, including man, reflect and strive to emulate.

This metaphysical model of the universe influenced European writers from Voltaire who satirized Leibniz in Candide to Goethe, who as late as represented the protagonist of Faust as a monad seeking salvation. The boy acts out the ceremony of establishing a home for his wife-to-be and entices her inside with the promise of a story, but it turns out that she already knows most of his tales by heart and is bored with them.

He is therefore forced to use an unfamiliar story "Daniel in the Lion's Den" to hold her attention, which he is able to do until she wonders about the connection between narrative and reality. When she questions him about angels, he answers: "Es ist nur so eine Geschichte. The response is a clear indication that the purpose of his narration is not to impart information or expe- rience — without angels the events in the story could not have taken NARRATIVE SEDUCTION 35 place, nor could Reinhard have experienced them in any case — but to serve some ulterior motive, namely seduction, or the manipulation of her desire for him.

Reinhard's admission of the rupture between narra- tion and experience, which is what Chambers calls "alienated discursive practice" 12 , troubles Elisabeth: "Warum sagen sie [daB es Engel gibt] denn immer? Mutter und Tante und auch in der Schule? He promises to explore the world for her in an effort to find out: "Wenn ich groB bin, will ich einmal selber hin" , But he ultimately spends his life gathering others' tales about the world instead. In effect, content ceases to concern him.

The 19th century

However, the self-designating narrational embed- ding in this passage stresses the problems he will encounter with his audience, which may not be ready to accept texts as something other than the relating of facts. At school Reinhard has to learn to separate reality from his narrative efforts. As its title suggests, his first poem, later identified as "Als sie vom Schulmeister gescholten war" , is an attempt to effect an act of retribution that he is unable to carry out in the present. In fact, his protest, like his planned vengeance, " Aber Reinhard verlor alle Aufmerksamkeit an den geographischen Vortragen: statt dessen verfaUte er ein langes Gedicht.

This higher purpose is nothing less than his supposed calling to be a poet, itself motivated by his desire for Elisabeth. Texts are again identified as instruments of seduction. When Reinhard is about to leave for the university, he promises to continue to entertain his prospective wife and will " Interestingly, she is now old enough to respond in writing: " Their relationship is about to be shifted to the plane of narration followed by reader response. The efficacy of the shift is, however, immediately called into question. When writing down the "Marchen, welche er ihr sonst erzahlt hatte," Reinhard denies his own creativity: ".

He seems to be bound either by the weight of the shared experiences he feels forced to retell or by those narratives that he has inherited from other storytellers: "So schrieb er sie genau auf, wie er sie selber gehort hatte. The tales are hidden away, and their content is specified only in the course of an act of denial; Elisabeth locks the tales away, apparently without reading them, for nothing is said of either her reading or of her response.

Presumably she already knows the tales by heart. Reinhard's narration, and, by analogy, narration in general, are incapable of transmitting experience. His storytelling Umits itself to the more or less successful, artistic retelling of the already known "wie sie ihr gefallen hatten". Yet, not only his retelling is later problematized. Not only does Reinhard not send Elisabeth any tales while he is studying at the university, but he also refuses to show her that part of his writing that would expressly communicate his love for her, namely his own poems.

The real purpose of his writing is self-discovery, which is not communicable: "Die Abreise riickte heran; vorher aber kam noch mancher Reim in den Pergamentband. Das allein war fiir Elisabeth ein Geheimnis, obgleich sie die Veranlassung zu dem ganzen Buche und zu den meisten Liedern war" It is as though narration is stripped of its informative character as well as of its ability to seduce, even though seduction is the sole reason for the book's existence. The text's explicit denial of art's effect refers to written narration not previously told directly: "Von den Marchen, welche er ihr sonst erzahlt und wieder erzahlt hatte, fing er jetzt an, die, welche ihr am besten gefallen hatten, aufzuschreiben" In these, the memory of his presence as narrator would continue, whereas new tales would necessarily lack this immedi- acy.

The narrator thus limits his own authority to the narrative act per se. Reinhard does write of his own experiences — in verse, rather than in the tales he copies down. The first example in the text, a poem later identified as "Als sie sich im Walde verirrt hatten" , , expressed the emotions he is unable to communicate to Elisabeth. The context surrounding this figural embedding shows that the text is of little immediate use: "Als er nach Hause gekommen war, schrieb er [das Gedicht] in seinen alten Pergamentband," which Elisabeth is only allowed to see much later This is the same book that contains the record of his other experiences.

Reinhard characterizes his early artistic efforts as "keine Marchen" , but it is the very book that he intended to use to win Elisabeth's love. The Pergamentband was conceived as an instrument of seduction, but he shows it to her only when it is too late. Moreover, it seems that she never even reads the poems it contains; Reinhard watches while ". When finally presented to their intended reader, the poems elicit almost no response.

Elisabeth's pet finch, which ". The bird was a gift from Reinhard and is therefore identified with him, much to the dismay of EUsabeth's mother: ". When the finch dies, Erich, now a prosperous landowner, re- places it with a screeching canary. Perhaps because it comes from Erich's estate at Immensee, the new bird is more welcome to Elisabeth's mother, just as Erich is the suitor she favors over Reinhard.

In fact, Reinhard has eliminated himself as a suitor by not sending the tales he promised. His silence is explained in part by the repeated failure of his poems to seduce, especially in the face of competition from Erich's prosaic world. While not seductive in the Hteral sense, art can nevertheless achieve intimacy. Erich, who is otherwise the complete bourgeois, intrudes on Elisabeth's privacy — until then reserved for Reinhard — by drawing her portrait. Thus she complains: "Es war mir recht zuwider, daB der fremde Mensch mein Gesicht so auswendig lernte" So, too, does Reinhard know her through his verses.

Yet it is not the portrait that ultimately seduces Elisabeth. Her mother persuades her to sit for the drawing and eventually to marry Erich once the "artist" has become an estate owner.


One suspects that her mother's reasons are practical, and she wins out against Reinhard's unsent tales and unread verses. This is not to say that Reinhard's poems do not provide a kind of commentary on his own and Elisabeth's lives. In them Reinhard pre- serves memories of a happier past, which he is unable to recapture in the present. Just how irretrievably lost his childhood is becomes clear when the Pergamentband is used to provide the weighty material space for history — in the form of a place for botanical specimens "zum Trocknen zwischen [d]en Blatter[n]" Reinhard is nevertheless aware of the future — however dimly, but his texts offered his fellow beings no help in altering the present.

The insights they contained were there solely for him, their author. When Elisabeth finally read his verses, she blushed and " At this point in the text, creative writing itself becomes a dubious enterprise. Reinhard no longer aspires to become a poet. He seems to have abandoned that part of his youthful ambitions, perhaps because his verses had not helped him win Elisabeth: "Er hatte seit Jahren, wo er deren habhaft werden konnte, die im Volke lebenden Reime und Lieder gesammelt und ging nun daran, seinen Schatz zu ordnen und wo moglich mit neuen Aufzeichnungen aus der Umgegend zu vermehren" What he presents Elisabeth in his parchment book are not Gedichte — suggesting the superhuman figure of the Dichter — but Verse, which are made by lesser mortals His collection is of "die im Volke lebenden Reime und Lieder" which he only preserves, without really knowing where they come from , emphasis added.

He is reduced to being a pedantic collector, who has to be satisfied with the claim that ". These "Reime und Lieder" do express the characters' most personal thoughts. For example, "Meine Mutter hat's gewollt" corresponds to Elisabeth's admission that her marriage was at her mother's behest. The two of them can sing together, but their communication has broken down irre- trievably.

His offer, made in reference to the parchment volume, elicits only Elisabeth's tears. Reinhard finally realizes that their childhood, and with it the seductive power of his tales, "hinter jenen blauen Bergen liegt" Their childhood is now a distant memory and the texts it inspired had never been effective instruments of seduction. At this point the term used to designate the songs, Reime, becomes important. Reinhard is baffled by Elisabeth's appearance in the evening rain: "Er konnte das nicht reimen'' that is, he was unable to understand her behavior , emphasis added.

The scene at the lakeside bench occurs before she refuses his offer to renew their love, and it prefigures her refusal: "Als er aber rascher zuschritt, um sie zu erreichen und dann mit ihr zusammen durch den Garten ins Haus zuriickzukehren, wandte sie sich langsam ab und verschwand" Her turning away, which Reinhard could not "reimen," occurs on the page after the reference to the folk songs as "Reime" That this is an accidental choice seems extremely unlikely. Reinhard's lack of comprehension is both a function of his disappointed longing and his inability to deal with it in poetic form.

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Not only are the texts not seduc- tive, they now also lack their previous power to serve as a means of self-reflection and of achieving self-knowledge. His acceptance is without understanding and without the promise of future success. Perhaps Reinhard leaves Immensee for "die groBe weite Welt," but the text returns him abruptly to his book-lined study This room and the books it contains are his refuge from an uncomprehending world that his writing is unable to change.

Although the metaphor of seduction through text was present at every stage of Reinhard's life, it was only in his childhood that there was any hope of success. His failure to win Elisabeth does not, however, disprove the thesis of narrative seduction. She is impervious to Rein- hard's advances because the texts she was supposed to read lacked the narrative authority necessary to sway her — namely, Reinhard's physical presence as a narrator.

The text's narrative stance systematically under- cuts the possibility of manipulating readers' desires in such an extreme form. And if the embedded models for the text's reception deny the possibility of moving even one person to action, literary activism in the tradition of the Young Germans or Vormdrz is clearly an impossible interpretation of Immensee's theme.

Furthermore, literary creations within the text are also ineffective as acts of reflective understanding of external reality. The texts Reinhard collects may describe his world, but they do not help him understand it. Even the recurring image of the unreachable water lily is, at best, a kind of vaguely Romantic apprehen- sion rather than comprehension.

As Erich comments: "Das versteht wieder einmal kein Mensch! Back in his study the old man finds solace and a kind of pleasure in his books and the memories they contain. Active artistic creation and the reception of the texts it produces are thus reduced to means of escaping reality. Whatever one might read into the novella's content, this is necessarily, to use Chambers' term again, its "point.

Far from advocating some kind of reconciUation between the artist and reality, Immensee is a call for resignation and retreat from the cares of the world. Notes ' See Carnaby for an overview of the literature on Immensee. Two examples of the kind of research referred to here are McHaffie and Ritchie, and Hohn. The analyses of Immensee that might be termed vaguely narratological are of little use.

Kreckler's study, for example, is limited to the role of the frame story. See also Rogers. Both Chambers and Jameson presume that the traditional world described in Storm's novella was falling apart as a result of the Industrial Revolution and that progressive texts, which Storm's novella — in my reading — definitely is not, were an attempt to deal with the problems posed by that reality. Which is not to say that conservative texts were not inscribed with the same set of problems. Since Reinhard ultimately fails as a poet, and fails to win Elisabeth, too, events from the first version like those described in the following quotation would contradict his basic role: "Nach dem bald erfolgten Tode seiner Mutter hatte er.

Endlich nahm er auch eine Frau" Immensee: Erlduterungen und Dokumente Works Cited Artiss, D. Benjamin, Walter. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhauser.

Calaméo - The Cambridge History of German

Carnaby, Rachel M. Chambers, Ross. Theory and History of Literature Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, Ebersold, Gunter. Politik und Gesellschaftskritik in den Novellen Theodor Storms. Jackson, D. Jameson, Fredric. Ithaca, N. Kreckler, Editha. McHaffie, Margaret, and J. Rogers, T. Sammern-Frankenegg, Fritz Riidiger. Schuster, Ingrid. Theodor Storm: Die zeitkritische Dimension seiner Novellen. Storm, Theodor.

Peter Goldhammer. BerUn: Auf- bau, Theodor Storm. Immensee: Erlduterugen und Dokumente. Frederick Betz. Stuttgart: Reclam, Wo Mensch-Ameise schwirrt im jahesten Fabelreich elastischer Korridore. Johannes R. Becher, "An Berlin" With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, a demographic trans- formation occurred which was to change the face of the modern world. Vast numbers of people flocked to the towns and cities to satisfy the labour demands of the new factories and mills. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Britain, the most industrially advanced nation of the era, had become the first society in history to have a predominantly urban population Clapham A similar development was underway in much of Europe and North America.

This process of urbanisation, with its attendant challenges and problems, became a major theme of the literature of the time. Authors as diverse as Dickens, Zola, Baude- laire, and Wordsworth expressed an ambiguous attitude towards the new form of society which had been created through technological prog- ress, with its "faszinierende Lebendigkeit und Vielfalt der Moglich- keiten," but corresponding "Bedrohung des Einzelnen, Anonymitat bis zum Verlust des Ich" Schraut 6. In Germany, a country which lacked a central capital and where industrialisation came relatively late, the portrayal of the city in litera- ture was long restricted and largely derivative of British and French models.

However, with the founding of the Second Reich in , Berlin was well on its way to becoming a Weltstadt, the focal point of a rapidly developing technological society. From a modest , in , Ber- lin's population had expanded to two million by with an almost equal number in the surrounding suburbs Schraut 5. German authors turned increasingly to the subject of the city. An examination of these two aspects will be the focus of this paper.

Doblin, a founding member of the Expressionist journal Der Sturm in , lived and worked for years as a doctor in the working-class areas of Berlin. At one time he planned to write a cycle of novels based on the development of technology, for which he carried out extensive research in Berlin factories, but which merely resulted in the production of one work, Wadzeks Kampf mit der Dampf turbine, in In "Der Geist des naturalistischen Zeitalters," an article written in , Doblin asserts that the city is the product of a "technische[n] Impuls" 72 which is in the process of producing a new and superior form of humanity in the modern era: Das KoUektivwesen Mensch, die Gruppe Mensch bewegt sich, reagiert und produziert in vieler Hinsicht wie ein machtiger Einzelmensch.

In einer gewissen sehr wichtigen Beziehung aber ist das KoUektivwesen, die Menschengruppe, besonders: sie ist — auch in sich — der Weg zu einem anderen, machtigeren und feineren Tierwesen. Uberall besteht der Kampf zwischen dem ganzen Einzelmenschen und dem Trieb der Gruppe, ihn zum Trager einer bestimmten Funktion zu machen" This ambiguity towards humankind as collective beings was of central significance in Doblin's life and writings, as he investigated what Roland Links describes as the antagonisms "zwischen dem Individuum, dem Ich, und jeder Art von Gemeinschaft, angefangen bei einer Partner- schaft, nicht endend bei der Gesellschaft als Gemeinde und Staat, son- dern bei der 'Weh' und beim 'Leben'" In his examination of the relationships of individuals to collective groups, Doblin was particularly sceptical of mass organisations, as is evidenced in an open letter from , "Die Gesellschaft, das Ich, das Kollektivum": Es laufen falsche Gedanken um iiber die RoUe der Gesellschaft, des Staats, der Gemeinschaft, des KoUektivums.

In mehreren Schattie- rungen wird behauptet: die Gesellschaft, der Staat, die Gemeinschaft, das Kollektivum ist alles, und du bist nichts. Du muBt dich vor diesen Massen huten. Sie sind das Ubel von heute und die wirklichen Verhinderer eines mensch- lichen Daseins. Es sind die Tugen- den einer Ameise und nicht einer menschlichen Person. Aber man hat die 'Person' ausgeloscht zugunsten des Kollektivums. Doblin advocates that the individual take an "active" stance to com- bat the threat from the collective, but stresses that such a stance involves far more than the use of brute force.

In order to change society one must first understand it: "Aktiv kann. In addition Doblin favours "eine machtvolle Steigerung der wirklichen, das heifit der kleinen gesellschaftlichen Gruppen und ihres 'privaten' Lebens" Once these two requirements are met, a reso- lution of the antithesis between individual and collective and an "Abbau der Offentlichkeit" may be possible However, he stresses that such a resolution is "kaum fiir heute, kaum fiir morgen, fiir ein spates Uber- morgen.

Berlin Alexanderplatz provided Doblin with another opportunity to explore the tensions between single human beings and their social environment. First published in , the novel is generally acknowl- edged as being the most important example of the city novel in German literature. Fritz Martini even goes so far as to see the city as the "second hero" in the work While not all critics are in agreement with this latter assessment, they are unanimous in seeing the city as playing an extremely important role. Far more than a mere backdrop to the lives of the characters, it forms an integral and influential part of their exist- ence.

To illustrate his argument Miiller-Salget quotes the following passage from Doblin's Unser Dasein, a philosophical work first published in Und da blicken wir uns um und sehen: die StraBen, die Platze, Geschafte und Fabriken, Arbeiter, Arbeitslose, Kaufleute, Besitzer, wir sehen Kinder, Manner und Frauen, wir sehen Vergniigungspalaste, Kinos und Gefangnisse, es gibt Verbrecher, harmlose Tiere, Ameisen- volker. Es ist Unsinn zu glauben, daB dies alles hier zufallig zusammengelaufen ist wie auf einem Markt. Nichts auf der Welt hat einen wirren, zusammenhanglosen Charakter.

Unser Dasein David B. DoUenmayer even goes so far as to see Doblin's Berlin as a "well-ordered complexity" , and stresses "the positive character of the city in the novel" Sie sind der Korallenstock fur das Kollektivwesen Mensch. Hat es da einen Sinn, Land und Stadt gegeniiberzustellen? Man kann an den Stadten manches schwach oder gefahrlich fmden, man kann in dem Streit der Triebe, die in den Stadten arbeiten, Partei ergreifen.

Man kann aber nicht die Stadte selbst, die Brennpunkte des Gesellschaftstriebes, ablehnen, oder iiberhaupt bewerten. Naturkrafte dieser Art und ihre AuBerungen stellt man nur fest. These descriptions take the form of montage in which diverse elements of city life are presented from many differing points of view. The beginning of Book V may serve as an example. The narrator describes, in colloquial language, the construction of the new underground railway at Alexanderplatz, for which a pile driver is being used: "Sie ist ein Stock hoch, und die Schienen haut sie wie nichts in den Boden," He next describes the different types of people who, bustling around in the icy February air, pause to watch the con- struction work, and for a moment the narrative appears to pass into the minds of the onlookers: ".

Nachher ist sie klein wie eine Fingerspitze, dann kriegt sie aber noch immer eins, da kann sie machen, was sie will. Zuletzt ist sie weg, Don- nerwetter, die haben sie fein eingepokelt, man zieht befriedigt ab. This idea of complexity, of multitudi- nousness, is then strengthened when the narrator compares the people on the building site to bees. By the use of short clauses and onomato- poeia, an impression is next given of the constant activity of trams arriving and departing: "Ruller ruUer fahren die Elektrischen, Gelbe mit Anhangern, iiber den holzbelegten Alexanderplatz, Abspringen ist gefahrlich" In a further change in narrative perspective, the advertisements for a recently demolished and rebuilt cigar store are given verbatim.

The perspective shifts yet again to the shouts of a banana salesman touting his wares. The verb zerschlagen is conjugated, giving an effective impression of the beating of the pile driver: "[I]ch zerschlage alles, du zerschlagst alles, er zerschlagt alles. Wind sweeps around the massive square, workers arrive from the suburbs.

There is a snatch of their thoughts or speech which contains an additional comparison of people to bees: "Wir miissen schuften, oben sitzen die Drohnen, die schlafen in ihre Feder- betten und saugen uns aus" The narrator soon turns to a description of the police directing people and traffic over the crossroads. The city here seems to be the very opposite of chaos. It appears, on the contrary, to be complex, full of energy, yet well functioning and regulated.

One may well concur with Dollenmayer that the novel contains "an undeniable celebration of the multiplicity of the city in the sheer exuberance of presentation" For example, the way in which the police, with their machine-like movements, seem to have become mere objects, is extremely disturbing. Also unsettling is the suggestion that the sheer numbers of people in the swarming, insect-like masses make it impossible to comprehend their individual lives: Die Schupo beherrscht gewaltig den Platz. Sie steht in mehreren Exemplaren auf dem Platz.

Dann schaltet das Exem- plar selbsttatig um. Sie alle aufzuzahlen und ihr Schicksal zu beschreiben, ist schwer moglich. Even the acknowledgement of human diversity here seems meaningless. In the mass description even such fundamental issues as political belief and human happiness are subjugated to the impression of a herd of creatures of the same species:. Sie lesen Zeitungen verschiedener Richtungen, bewahren vermittels ihres Ohrlabyrinths das Gleichgewicht, nehmen Sauerstoff auf, dosen sich an, haben Schmerzen, haben keine Schmerzen, denken, denken nicht, sind glucklich, sind ungliicklich, sind weder gliicklich noch unglucklich.

Further mani- festations of this bureaucracy, whether it be in the form of rules and 48 NEW GERMAN REVIEW regulations, official letters as elsewhere in the novel , or in the machine- like gesticulations of the police, serve to dehumanise the individual and are vivid examples of the "abstrakte Offentlichkeit" about which Doblin writes in Wissen und Verdndern. Within the space of a few pages a com- plex montage of the city has been built up. Attention now begins to move down to the personal level, and we finally rediscover Franz Biberkopf, who is standing on the Alexanderplatz, selling newspapers Erich Hiilse has pointed out the importance of multiple narrative perspectives in the construction of the city montage in Berlin Alexander- platz.

He identifies seven distinct narrative elements which can be sum- marised as follows: third-person narrative, stream of consciousness, erlebte Rede, dialogue, factual reporting, biblical references, and lyri- cisms. With the exception of lyricisms, all of the categories above are present in the opening pages of Book V. Hiilse comments thus on the cumulative effect of the use of these different perspectives: Diese Erzahlelemente sind die Mosaiksteinchen, aus denen sich Dob- lins Roman zusammensetzt. Teilweise sind sie so verschieden vonein- ander, dafi ein jaher Bruch entsteht; andere sind so eng miteinander verleimt, daB es schwer ist, sie zu unterscheiden.

Dennoch bestehen die Unterschiede, auch wenn die Montage scheinbar nahtlos ist. Just as the piecing together of thousands of tiny tiles leads to the creation of a harmonious mosaic, so too, in Berlin Alexanderplatz, does the piecing together of seemingly unrelated elements lead to a composite impression of modern life which possesses its own, admittedly complex, order. Although Berlin Alexanderplatz portrays the city as an ordered, rela- tively well functioning whole, it also makes clear that the order and efficiency of the collective entity has been achieved at the expense of the individuality of those who have hterally become its component "parts" — the people who inhabit it.

The dehumanisation of people in the city is further emphasized in the slaughterhouse scenes, chiefly contained in Book IV. The Berlin slaughterhouse is described in minute detail, as is the killing of the various animals. Statistics concerning the numbers of animals processed in the abattoir are given several times in the novel. There is, therefore, an obvious correlation in the reader's mind to these animal statistics when, in Book VIII, there is a listing of the numbers of human deaths in Berlin: In Berlin starben ohne Totgeborene 48 Personen.

Geboren wurden 42 Menschen. Morder sagt sie, das soil sie erleben, das hat er dir wohl aufgetra- gen, dein siiBer Franz. Darauf schlagt man mit der Holzkeule dem Tier in den Nacken und offnet mit dem Messer an beiden Halsseiten die Schlagadern. Das Blut fangt man in Metallbecken auf. At times these portraits seem only to underline the impression of the faceless quality of humanity in the metropolis. A great deal of personal information is given, but there is an underlying impres- sion that, in this vast multitude, these diverse lives are interchangeable and unimportant.

One might cite as examples the teenage girl and the old man who meet secretly for lovemaking 59 , any of the numerous individuals who share Franz's building , or Max Riist, the young boy who will one day become a plumber, win the Prussian lottery in ! In contrast, several of the vignettes are extremely moving and personal, as, for example, the story of a young child who dies of scarlet fever Franz is himself an engaging character, in spite of his fits of brutality, and he inspires great loyalty from his friends, especially from Lina, Eva, and Mieze.

Realist modes

Thus the indi- vidual human being is very much an important part of the novel and provides a balancing effect to the anonymity of the city. Yet the question remains as to how successful the individual can be against the enormous force of the collective. At the beginning of the novel, after four years of regulated prison life, Franz is clearly unable to cope with the metropolis, which seems to close in around him: "Die Wagen tobten und klingelten weiter, es rann Hauserfront neben Hauserfront ohne Aufhoren hin.

Und Dacher waren auf den Hausern, die schwebten auf den Hausern, seine Augen irrten nach oben: wenn die Dacher nur nicht abrutschten. However, as Biberkopf begins to find his feet in the big city, he starts to develop a more confident, indeed overconfident attitude to life there. He believes that he is strong enough alone to maintain his equilibrium and remain "anstandig" under all circumstances. It soon becomes apparent that he is deluding himself in this appraisal of his own abilities.

Biberkopf is in fact extremely naive. He is astounded to discover that his job selling Nazi newspapers can nearly involve him in a brawl with some Socialist acquaintances. After all, he only wants to look after his own private affairs: "Was wollen die Leute von einem, erst die Schwulen, die einen nichts angehen, jetzt die Roten. Was geht mich das alles an, sollen ihren Mist alleene fahren" Biberkopf unquestioningly accepts people at face value, with disastrous results, as he is deceived by the unscrupu- lous LUders and the downright evil Reinhold.

Writing at the same time as the later realists and the naturalist writers but forming a bridge to German Modernism, Friedrich Nietzsche developed a philosophy that understood art as the result of a fundamental conflict between two opposing forces—the Apollonian, or the desire for Classical form and serenity, and the Dionysian, or the ecstatic and quasi-religious search for liberation from formal constraints.

Rejecting mediocrity, Nietzsche believed that the ideal personality was in a constant state of development, affirming its identity by continually enlarging its sphere of experience. In the final decades of the 19th century the literary scene was divided between naturalism and its opposites, variously collected under terms such as Neoromanticism, Impressionism, Jugendstil, and Decadence.

Aestheticism—the belief that the work of art need have no moral or political use beyond its existence as a beautiful object—may prove to be the most appropriate overarching term for this period. In a series of essays written between and , the Austrian critic and playwright Hermann Bahr explained the unsettling effects of Impressionism, which appeared to dissolve the boundaries of objects and make even the perceiving subject little more than a fluctuating angle of vision.

In the Letter , Chandos describes an experience akin to sickness or paralysis. Language, he feels, has become a depleted and meaningless medium. He feels himself pulled into a whirlpool of words that have lost all coherence. It became a central document that initiated some of the most important experiments of German literary Modernism. A number of specialized periodicals, published in Berlin, Munich, Vienna, and Prague, led to a wide dissemination of Aestheticist writing.

The influence of French Symbolism is especially evident in the poetry of George and Hofmannsthal. Buddenbrooks , links aesthetic decadence with social and moral decline. His preoccupation with the figure of the artist, perennially longing to participate in the active and robust life of bourgeois society but perennially condemned to decadence, illness, and an inability to cope with practical realities, is a characteristic theme of Aestheticism.

Rainer Maria Rilke and Hermann Hesse also explore this problematic relation between the artist and real life. The early stories of Franz Kafka also owe much to Aestheticism. Load Previous Page. The 19th century The Romantic Movement The early years of German Romanticism have been aptly termed the theoretical phase of a movement whose origin can be traced back to the Sturm und Drang era and, beyond Germany itself, to the French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

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