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Monatshefte

Volume 92, Number 2, Summer 2000 Table of Contents

Articles

Christine Manteghi Goulding
From Witz Culture to Cult of Genius: Lessing and Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics
Abstract:
Widely known in the eighteenth century as the capacity to recognize similarities between disparates, Witz was considered the highest faculty an author could possess. By 1770, however, Genie had indisputably superseded Witz as the supreme poetic gift. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing played a pivotal role in this transformation in aesthetic ideals. His eventual abandonment of Witz results from changes in his aesthetic thinking: namely, his separation of the arts based on their divergent modes of expression, as described in his Laokoon, and his increasing differentiation between literary genres based on their intended effects. Lessing comes to find that Witz, as a productive technique based on the detection of coincident similarity, can not meet the needs of every kind of literature. Because the modus operandi of genius is not strictly defined, the concept can embrace a much broader range of poetic abilities. Genie thus supplants Witz as the supreme literary talent in Lessing’s aesthetics. (CMG)

 

Barbara Becker-Cantarino
Lessing, Der Misogyne. Sexualität und Maskerade in Lessings frühen Lustspielen
Abstract:
Lessing uses gender masquerade, a significant prop of court culture and spectacle in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in his early comedy Der Misogyne (1748) in order to challenge culturally established norms for gender and sexuality. He plays with male/female roles as masked and unmasked in his play, suggesting the possibility of a confrontation with and deconstruction of the misogynist father figure, while the role of his daughter as a love object is reconstructed. The switching of gender identity behind a mask, and even a male-and-female mask (Zwitterkostüm), reduces binary gender roles to performativity, but only for the theatrical moment on stage. In his early comedies Lessing could treat serious questions of human sexual identity and of gender bias under the guise of situational and verbal humor in order to test playfully and to reassert the existing gender order. (BB-C) (In German)

 

Mark Bauer
Der verborgene Mittlepunkt: Issues of Death and Awareness in Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde
Abstract:
This article argues that Friedrich Schlegel’s novel Lucinde is centered in experiences of pain and death rather than love and the exploration of male (and female) wish-fulfillment. It disputes established notions that the novel gravitates toward closure (despite all its own assertions to the contrary) and the celebration of a happy Romantic marriage. It also demonstrates how the prose fragments Schlegel left for the continuation of the novel provide further and more explicit confirmation of death’s centrality to the meaning and structure of the novel. The study concludes by arguing that, like the governing thematics of death, an uncompleted project of critical self-awareness permeates both the published novel and its unpublished “remains” and that this project gives us further insight into Schlegel’s progressive and universalizing ambitions for Lucinde as a model of the new Romantic novel. (MB)

 

Günter Holtz
Ecpressionismuskritik als antifaschistische Publizistik? Die Debatte in der Zeitschrift Das Wort
Abstract:
In a series of articles appearing 1937–1938 in the journal Das Wort, edited in Moscow, exiled German authors discussed the historical significance of expressionist art. In question was the relevance of literary modernism for the public struggle against fascism and the Nazi government. On the surface, this seemed primarily to be a debate about ideological principles of literary criticism, a mainly theoretical matter, which pitted such left wing writers as Alfred Kurella and Georg Lukács against Ernst Bloch and Anna Seghers. This article searches for personal motives which lay behind the writers’ dispute, motives which may have been dependent on the political situations in which they were entangled. They chose strategies of argumentation to prove controversial theses and kept them in practice up to the first decade of the “Cold War.” Their real purpose was to justify methods of literary production to the authorities of totalitarian systems—an attempt which by and large remained in vain. (GH) (In German)

 

Harry Louis Roddy, Jr.
A Revolutionary Critique of Individualism: Heiner Müller’s Mauser in Texas
Abstract:
This paper considers the 1975 Austin, Texas production of Heiner Müller’s Mauser as the staging of a revolutionary play for a non-revolutionary audience. To pinpoint the philosophical positions represented in Mauser, Brecht’s Die Maßnahme is compared to Müller’s drama. Next, a video recording of the actual production is analyzed to show how postmodern strategies employed in the staging recontextualize Müller’s critique of Brecht as a critique of American concepts of freedom and individuality. In vignettes inserted in consultation with Müller, the players mime and verbalize contradictions in their values and question the premises they espouse as revolutionaries. Analysis of these vignettes reveals how the production was structured to illustrate contradictions in American presuppositions about individuality. Müller’s method of recontextualizing Mauser for a non-revolutionary audience is revealed by contrasting two ideological systems: those of the society in which it was produced and those examined by the play itself. (HLR)

 

David Robb
The GDR Singebewegung: Metamorphosis and Legacy
Abstract:
This article traces the history of political song in the GDR and considers its legacy in the decade following unification. Celebrated as a cultural Erbe, the GDR song followed on in the tradition of Tucholsky, Mehring, Brecht, and Eisler, mediating between the conventional categories of high and low art. Always a highly sensitive medium, its official function in the GDR as a tool of propaganda rested uneasily with its traditional gesture of subversion. Probing beyond the well-documented case of Wolf Biermann, this article focuses attention on singers who remained in the GDR, particularly Gerhard Gundermann and Hans-Eckardt Wenzel. These form examples of a culture of Liedermacher and folk groups who trod a precarious tightrope between prohibition and tolerance, developing boundary-breaking performance techniques and textual strategies as a means of circumventing taboos. The careers of many GDR singers peaked during the months of the Wende. Since unification, they have struggled to retain a profile, faced with a public increasingly sceptical of traditional ideological discourse. (DR)

 

Book Reviews

Books Received

Notes

Monatshefte / Max Kade Institute Directory of German Studies 2000
Errata