German literature - Wikipedia


history of german literature

The shared memories of the Nordic people, first written down in Iceland literature, have been recited and sung wherever Germanic tribes have settled - including the central lands of Germany itself. In the southeast of this region, in modern Austria, the legends about the fall of Burgundy to the Huns. From the earliest magical charms and mythical sagas to the brilliance and desolation of 20th-century fiction, poetry, and film, this illuminating reference book invites readers to experience the full range of German literary culture and to investigate for themselves its disparate and unifying themes. It is the first important work in German literature in the neoclassical vein. Goethe returns to Weimar in refreshed and, so to speak, idealized. In Goethe meets Schiller, who is working as professor of history in the nearby university of Jena. The two men become friends.

German literature |

German Modernism emerged from turn-of-the-century Aestheticism. Of these, Expressionism is the best known and most important. Beginning about and reaching its culmination during World War IExpressionism was a powerful response to the chaos and suffering of modern life. Georg TraklGeorg Heym, and Gottfried Benn created terrifying images of war, urban life, oppression, and illness in their lyric poetryand, although Trakl expressed a visionary mysticism in his battlefield scenes, Heym and Benn presented reality as grotesque, distorted, and starkly unrelieved.

At the same time, their poetryhistory of german literature, like Expressionist art of the period, is full of such colours as red, gold, purple, and blue, which bear an often hermetic or deeply personal significance for these writers. Expressionist drama used the history of german literature methods of grotesque distortion to attack what it saw as the soullessness of modern technology and the subjection of workers to machines.

Yet Expressionist drama often took a more optimistic approach to the machine age, in part because of impulses derived from Italian Futurism.

Whereas the Futurists glorified the machine, however, the History of german literature saw it more as an instrument that might help bring about a socialist utopia.

The Expressionist stage became a vehicle to effect a transformation of consciousness in the audience. Die Wandlung ; Transfigurationa play by Ernst Tollerdepicts this kind of transformation in a young man who turns his horrific war experience into a new awareness of the brotherhood of man; his play Masse-Mensch ; Man and the Masses presents the tragic attempt of a woman worker to effect a mass revolution among her fellow workers and lead them beyond violence toward peaceful coexistence.

The works of Franz Kafkaespecially his two stories Das Urteil ; The Judgment and Die Verwandlung ; The Metamorphosisowe much to Expressionism and are often considered in the context of that movement.

But his writing is better understood as an early phase of experimental Modernism. His striking narrative technique, first developed in The Judgmenthistory of german literature, of presenting reality from a limited third-person point of view enables readers to identify with his oppressed and passive protagonists while also recognizing that their view is deeply flawed.

Like many other Modernists, Kafka also treated problems of authority and power. His characters feel hopelessly subjugated to inexplicable forces associated with patriarchal social structures and an overly mechanized and bureaucratic modern world.

Set in Paris and presented in the form of fragmentary jottings, the novel depicts modern city life as the multiple reflexes of a disoriented narrator who tries in vain to recapture the straightforward narrative logic he recalls from stories heard and read in his youth. In Der Steppenwolf ; Eng. SteppenwolfHermann Hesse also developed many concerns of Modernism, depicting the ordeals of a divided psyche torn between the conventional and the artistic worlds, the feminine and the masculine, reason and hallucination.

Among the communist writers who history of german literature fled from Nazi History of german literature a major debate took place about the merits of realist as opposed to Modernist techniques. The issue was whether straightforward presentation of reality or formal experimentation was a more effective way of raising social consciousness in readers of literature. This debate was later to have significant repercussions in History of german literature Germany.

Ernest Hemingway and Jean-Paul Sartre were among the most important literary influences of this period. The Man Outside —were a highly popular form.

Stage drama also exercised considerable influence throughout the early postwar years. His theoretical writings developed a new theatrical model designed to overcome the Aristotelian principles that had dominated German theatre since Lessing, history of german literature.

The alienation effect, history of german literature, designed to discourage empathy with the protagonist and to stimulate critical responses in the audience, became a touchstone for postwar dramatists. The exile poets Nelly Sachs and Paul Celan emerged as two of the most prominent poetic voices to reflect on the concentration camp experience.

In East Germany the literary situation was very different from that of West Germany. Adapting the doctrine espoused by Georg Lukacs during the Modernism debate of the s, the official literary mode was Socialist Realism. In the other German-speaking countries, the late s and early s saw the emergence of a number of novelists whose works have since become contemporary classics, history of german literature.

The trilogy presents a grotesquely imaginative retrospective on the Nazi period, history of german literature. The narrator of Die Blechtrommel is the dwarf Oskar Matzerath, who claims that he deliberately stopped growing on his third birthday out of protest against the corruptions of adult society under Nazism. He expresses his opposition by means of his toy drum as well as by his almost supernatural ability to shatter glass with his voice.

Despite his initial protest, however, Oskar allows himself to be co-opted by the Nazis, joining a performing group that entertains soldiers on the Atlantic front. After the end of World War II, history of german literature, Oskar chooses to become involved in the slick deception of the government-sponsored West Concert Bureau, which promotes collective repression of the Nazi period. With its history of german literature command of history of german literature, its innovative reworking of the picaresque tradition, and its sophisticated approach to German social historyhistory of german literature, Die Blechtrommel was a landmark in postwar German literature.

Dramatists of this period were increasingly concerned with the relation between the Nazi past and the political realities of the present. The play Kaspar ; Eng, history of german literature. Kasparby Peter Handketakes its starting point in the story of the foundling Kaspar Hauser and his gradual acquisition of language and culture, history of german literature, showing him being browbeaten into learning German and becoming increasingly dehumanized in the process.

Although this play did not explicitly address the question of the Nazi past, it explored the degree to which an individual can preserve the spirit of resistance in the face of overwhelming pressures. The dominant genre was lyric poetry.

After the student movement died down, the young writers returned somewhat reluctantly to everyday domesticity, which they described in their poetry in affectionate detail, though also with a distinct touch of irony. A Sorrow Beyond Dreamsa sensitive portrait of his mother and her suicide.

Sentimental, nostalgic, and gently ironicthese quasi-autobiographical novels explore the problematic nature of the positive family memories still somewhat guiltily cherished by many of those who were not persecuted by the Nazis. In Flugasche Flight of Asheswritten in East Germany during the s but not published until and then in West Germany, Monika Maron depicted the tension between inner and outer reality in the attempt of a young woman journalist to present unpleasant truths about the lives of workers in the industrial town of Bitterfeld.

While she does succeed in writing an article that causes the power plant to be shut down, she herself is under threat of expulsion from the Communist Party at the conclusion of the novel. Subjectivity was not the only theme of the s, however.

The feminist movement in Germany led to the emergence of a prolific and innovative group of women writers. Women were encouraged to feel and write through their bodies rather than through conventional rationality, and the distinctiveness of feminine sensibility became a hotly debated issue.

In the last decades of the 20th century, German literature was influenced by international postmodernism, a movement that combined heterogeneous elements in order to appeal simultaneously to a popular and a more sophisticated readership. Parody, pastiche, and multiple allusions to other types of cultural production are characteristic of postmodernist literature.

Once viewed in the light of postmodernism, however, these novels underwent a critical reevaluation. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall inwriters began to explore the tensions between the economic, social, and cultural values of West and East Germany. There was intense debate about the East German experience under communism, in particular about whether the psychological need to come to terms with this experience was comparable to the soul-searching that had been undertaken after the end of World War II, history of german literature.

Sixset in the s and ostensibly a story about the discovery of guilt incurred by an important East German party functionary during the Third Reich.

By exploring the rift between actions and desires, the novel becomes an inquiry into the responsibility of historians and writers in general. The link between the communist and the Nazi eras is established in a key scene that metaphorically brings together violence past and present. Some readers saw the tale as a self-serving portrayal of the author as a victim of communism; these readers failed to notice, history of german literature, the thread of self-critique woven into the narrative.

In it was revealed, in a further twist of irony, that Wolf herself had given information to the security police for a brief period.

It history of german literature succeeded by another debate that broke out after the secret police files of several other well-known writers became available. At the same time, some members of an apparently oppositional group of East German writers, known as the Prenzlauer Berg poets after the district in Berlin where they lived, history of german literature, were shown to have acted as informants for the secret police.

The resulting discussions stimulated a probing reexamination of the problem of autonomous art and the relation of aesthetics to ideology. Nonetheless, Hettche succeeds in transforming this central metaphor into a multilayered analysis of postunification psychology.

In these and other novels of the late 20th history of german literature early 21st centuries, the Nazi past continues to haunt German writing. Linked with debates about the problem of memorializing the victims of Nazism in the form of public monuments, German-language novels of the s explicitly probe questions about how memories of the Nazi period can best be represented. Austerlitz —the history of german literature of a man who had been saved from Nazi Germany and adopted by an English couple but who has been traveling in search of the places he believes to have been way stations in his early life—has had international success as a moving, though puzzling, exploration of memory, real and imagined.

German literature. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Load Previous Page. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Arguably, German literature holds less than its deserved status in world literature in part because the lyrical qualities of its poetry and the nuances of its prose defy translation. Even the most sublime figures in German literary history—Goethe the author of Faust ,….

A typical heroic age occurred during the wanderings of the Germanic tribes from the 3rd to the 6th century ce. Out of this too came a rich oral tradition, from which developed in the Middle Ages many epic poems. One of the greatest…. History at history of german literature fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Dayevery day in your inbox!

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history of german literature


Page - The admirable perspective of the whole work is what one most admires. The reader unlearned in Greek history and literature sees at once the relation which a given author bore to his race and his age, and the current trend of thought, as well as what we value him for to-day. From the earliest magical charms and mythical sagas to the brilliance and desolation of 20th-century fiction, poetry, and film, this illuminating reference book invites readers to experience the full range of German literary culture and to investigate for themselves its disparate and unifying themes. Gershom Scholem: An Intellectual Biography (Studies in German-Jewish Cultural History and Literature, Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem).