Friday, October 31, 2008

Period Notes

Arno Holz,M1

Gerhart Hauptmann

Arthur Schnitzler

Leutnant Gustl

Anti-Semitism in Vienna – but how?

Internal monologue, highly psychologically inflected


Fräulein Else

Internal monologue, highly psychologically inflected


Questions the merit of preserving bourgeoisie

Is a portrait of a Freudian hysterical episode, draws heavily on Freud’s ideas about the hysterical woman

?? possibly also shows a generational conflict/failed rebellion

Also an interesting look at the state of the woman in society at this time. Male author appropriating a female experience, but granted in a nuanced enough way that he makes it clear that she is not in control of her destiny – this is manifested by the family’s prospective benefactor assuming control over her body. At the same time that she’s not in control of her body or her life, her family’s livelihood depends on her in a way that seems as if it should be empowering, but isn’t.

Der Grüne Kakadu

Takes place on the eve of the French revolution. A revolutionary theater group puts on a performance of the beginning of the revolution (the assassination of a powerful bourgeois man), but fiction becomes reality when the main figure in the theater actually kills a man. The bourgeois audience is thoroughly entertained and doesn’t realize it’s real.


Series of love scenes – scenes of seduction between unseemly partners.

Piece was perceived to be obscene, not performed until much later.

Trying to chip away at bourgeois sexual mores – See also Frühlings Erwachen.


Frühlings Erwachen

Chips away at bourgeois sexual mores, questions validity of preserving innocence (ignorance) about sex.

Also, generational conflict

Can also be pulled into the gender discussion. W. sexualizes his young female characters in a way that is shocking even to the modern reader. Similar to the sexual portrait we get in Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora

Plays on a number of taboo topics, including sex (among teenagers), teen rebellion, suicide, societal/familial pressure to succeed. This play still reads as relevant today. See as evidence, the Broadway hit musical.


The first of the Lulu plays

Highly stylized, formal language – conflicts with the coarse physical performance required by the play’s action

Die Büchse der Pandora

The second of the Lulu plays.

Highly stylized, formal language – conflicts with the coarse physical performance required by the play’s action

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

“Ein Brief.”

Published in two parts in a newspaper (WHICH?)

Fictional letter from Lord Chandos to Francis Bacon

Chandos is explaining himsef in response to a letter from FB which asks why he hasn’t written anything in the last several years. Chandos explains it is because he has lost the ability to think clearly, linearly, logically about anything, that his crisis of LANGUAGE has affected his ability to even think, let alone write.

Sprachkrise – The Brief is self-consciously contradictory. He bemoans his inability to express his experiences in words, but tries at the same time to express his experiences in words. The limits of a purely written/linguistic medium (the letter) force him to try to overcome the limits of language. See the scene with the water beetle.

Language is also connected to the ability of the human to unify the world and to connect to the world. When language fails, one loses the ability to connect.

After the publication of the brief, Hofmannsthal turns more to drama, which being an experiential medium, allows the audience to experience more directly the gestures/experiences of the characters/actors on the stage.

Collaboration with Strauss on Der Rosenkavalier seems also to connect with the Sprachkrise. Movement into opera allows music also to convey part of what language cannot anymore.

Der Tor und der Tod

Märchen der 672. Nacht

Der Rosenkavalier

Collaboration with Richard Strauss

Opera – comedy, but not without dramatic moments

Destroys notion of unified time – set in Theresian Vienna (Rococco), but includes musical motifs (some at the suggestion of HvH) from many different periods – Waltz, Wagnerian business, minuets, high operatic arias

Idea is that the past permeates the present – drawing on TONS of literary precedents from Moliere to Shakespeare

Marschallin is keenly aware of time marching on – her aging

“reflections on the paradoxes of outer change and inner continuity of subjective consciousness”

Der Schwierige




Based in part on the decadent life of a Roman Caesar.

Symbolist, heavily influenced by French Symbolists, esp. Mallarme

Das Jahr der Seele


Das Unheimliche

Deals with a psychological phenomenon by looking at literature – E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Sandmann

Deals with Hoffmann perhaps as a way of lending historic credence to his theory, also working with a text that is familiar

Works with literature why?

Der Dichter und das Phantasieren


Der Tod in Venedig

3rd person omniscient narrator

Much of the “action” is actually just thought

Pub. 1912, seems prescient of WWI

Artistic success connected with major failure/downfall

Doktor Faustus

Story of a German composer (Adrian Leverkühn) – specialist in 12-tone music (like Schönberg, who makes a deal with the devil, seals it by contracting syphilis from a prostitute, and is never allowed to love again. Blood pact is literally inscribed in him in the form of the disease living in his blood stream.

The story is narrated by Zeitblom, a music critic and humanist who is a friend of AL’s. He comes to represent a kind of Mitläufer figure. Not powerful or creative enough to be equal to AL, but still following his example or something.

Story becomes largely an allegory of Nazi Germany. Deal with the devil, timelines line up, and the last line of the book is “Gott sei eurer armen Seele gnädig, mein Freund, mein Vaterland.” Zeitblom seems to be praying for the soul of his friend as well as that of Germany.

It is emphasized that what AL really likes is the mathematical nature of the way in which he writes music – creativity wird technological. Mechanical nature of things during this period.


Malte Laurids Brigge

1910 published

First Person – partially journal form, but mostly disjointed notes on urban life and reflecting on non-urban childhood.

Defies unified notion of time and space

Reminiscent of Baudelaire Spleen de Paris – prose poems

Dwells on issues of fragility – frequent references to body parts, fragmentation, the fear of falling to pieces – sees self as permeability and has no defense against onslaught of stimuli in the city.

Also, trope of inside/outside being swapped – formerly interior wall of house now on the outside when the house is demolished. Also, old woman whose face comes off in her hands. Permeability again – fear of showing one’s insides

Dwelling on death and dismemberment, disease.

Terrifying experiences – not just from the city, but also in childhood memories. Uncle’s death, getting stuck in layers of clothes while playing dress-up

Disjunctions in place and time are reminiscent/prescient of Berlin, Alexanderplatz. On the other hand, though, where B,A has a changing voice and tone, Malte has a consistent tone and narrator.

Critique of city life, but also examination of self. Evident of identity crisis in narrator (and z.T. in the author as well.)

In contrast to his Elegies and Sonnets, Rilke tries here to find a new form (rather than resorting to old form) for new experiences.

Tries to write urban experience, but is not essentially an urban person.

Modern death vs. dignified death – the idea of mechanized death – not mechanized killing, but mechanized death.

Duino Elegies

Written over 10 years, during which WWI happened.

Dwells on the untimeliness of death – alluding to young dead (soldiers) without becoming “war poems”

Modern life = transitory, temporary, fragile; antiquity = stable, lasting

Plays with classical elegiac meter, but these meters begin to decompose under the weight of modern concerns.

Images of money meaninglessly reproducing itself are shocking against the historical backdrop of German inflation post-war

“Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich aus der Engel /Ordnungen” - SPRACHKRISE

Benn, Gottfried


Pub 1912

„Mann und Frau gehn durch die Krebsbaracke“

Use of synechdoche and metaphor underscores depersonalization

Also evident in Gehirne – just handles brains, not people

Uses the image of a rosary for the cancerous nodules in a woman’s breast – inversion of religious image

Mixed vocabulary – poetic language with scientific/medical vocabulary

Undermines idea of human as pinnacle of creation – death of a girl makes possible the life of the rats that are living in her gut

Mostly unrhymed free verse

Constant breaking down of the whole into parts (body parts) – see Rilke: Malte

For the expressionists – Nietsche’s idea that transcendend values were a fiction, a human invention for the purpose of imposing power on others.

Expressionism – grossstadtlyrik

Benn is also an ambiguous figure, as he briefly flirted with NS, but then rejected it.

Attempt to express their experience of the world without trying to reproduce objective reality.

Benn’s mixture of everyday, clinical, religious and poetic language typical of expressionism (SEE Berlin, Alexanderplatz)


Stories about the surgeon Rönne – dissolution of reality and unified ich



Reflects some of the messianic ideal of some expressionists. Foreign to Benn and Trakl (and others)

Sections: “Collapse and Cry”, “Awakening of the Heart,” “Exhortation and Indignation,” and “Love of human beings.”

Ambiguity in name –dämmerung = dawn or dusk

Appeal to renewal

“Call to fraternity, spirit, humanity, heart, and soul in the face of a bestial existence”

Social program does appear:

R. Becher’s “Der Sozialist”

Georg Heym

“Der Gott der Stadt” religious-ish tone. Steeples of churches become chimneys of factories


Das Urteil

Written overnight 22-23 Sept 1912

Shows an affinity with Expressionism in its fascination with the grotesque and the more rigorous, intense expression of experience.

Generational conflict (see also Hasenclever – Der Sohn)

Important to remember historical context – eve of WWI, tension in Europe

Motifs of betrayal and writing of “false letters” (encoding of engagement in letter to his friend in Russia) anspielungen on the political atmosphere

Father’s claim to have been in touch with the friend in Russia = diplomatic relations between Austro-Hungary and Russia

Also – Yiddish Theater exaggerated gesture of father emerging from bed, and of Georg jumping off the bridge – also has an Expressionist flavor as well.

Oedipal undertones & repression à Freud

SIGNIFICANT: development of limited 3rd person narration – limited to perceptual field of the protagonist – i.e. NOT OMNISCIENT

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