German Literature: From the Middle of the 19th Century to the First World War Part III
The vague term, which comes from the visual arts, is v. a. applied to the poetry of the turn of the century (Bierbaum, R. Dehmel, A. Mombert, E. von Wolhaben, M. Dauthendey, H. Carossa, K. Wolfskehl), but also to the poems by George, Else Lasker- Schüler and G. Heym. The center in Germany was Munich, where the magazine “Jugend” appeared, on which many Austrian authors also collaborated (H. von Hofmannsthal, R. M. Rilke, A. Schnitzler).
In the early works of H. Mann (“Im Schlaraffenland”, 1900) and T. Mann (“Tristan”, 1903) references to Art Nouveau poetry can be seen. The neo-romantic tendencies are represented by Hauptmann’s pieces “Hanneles Himmelfahrt” (1896), “The Sunken Glocke” (1897), “And Pippa Dances” (1906), as well as the poetry of Ricarda Huch, which were created parallel to his naturalistic works.
Important German and Austrian authors carried on the realistic traditions of the 19th century in novels and short stories: T. Mann in “Buddenbrooks” (1901), H. Hesse in “Peter Camenzind” (1904), J. Wassermann in “Caspar Hauser” (1908). But as early as 1910, Rilke radically set himself apart from this with “The Notes of Malte Laurids Brigge” (2 volumes).
The awareness of the crisis that was present in public life around 1900 was also expressed in the Heimatkunst movement. She spoke out against industrialization, capitalism and socialism (F. Lienhard, A. Bartels); Pessimistic basic attitude determined an extensive ideological essay with national-conservative, partly also anti-Semitic attitude (inter alia H. von Treitschke, M. Scheler, L. Klages). J. Langbehns belongs in this context Work “Rembrandt als Erzieher” (1890; initially published anonymously), whose anti-intellectual, anti-modern cultural criticism had a major influence on the petty-bourgeois ideology of the Wilhelmine era. The Heimatkunst movement, to which L. Ganghofer, R. Herzog, L. Thoma and H. Löns can also be assigned in the broadest sense, later culminated in the Weltanschauung novel, which endeavored to give an interpretation of the world from the perspective of the lower bourgeois classes (i.a. Lulu von Strauss and Torney, W. von Polenz, Clara Viebig, Helene Böhlau). It is also one of the roots of the blood-and-soil poetry, which was later officially promoted by the National Socialists with its propagation of völkisch-national-conservative values.
The representatives of Expressionism, whose center was Berlin, announced a radical break with all traditions. K. Hiller gave decisive impetus in 1909 with his “Neopathetic Cabaret” (with Else Lasker-Schüler, G. Heym, J. van Hoddis and others); leading magazines were »Der Sturm« (published by H. Walden, from 1910; collection point of the Expressionist movement in the symbiosis of poetry, painting and music), »Die Aktion« (published by F. Pfemfert, from 1911) and »Die Weißen Blätter «(1913–21, under the direction of R. Schickele 1915-20). Despite the explicit negation of the older traditions, the transitions are fluid, in addition there is the influence of Italian Futurism (F. T. Marinetti), which proclaimed an art of movement, preached the worship of technology and demanded the development of a machine-based artistic style. Expressionism was not only an artistic form, but also an expression of a new attitude towards life, proclaimed on the eve of the First World War, the victims of which were many young representatives of the movement (G. Trakl, E. Stadler, G. Engelke, A. Lichtenstein, A. Stramm). Expressionism made use of excessive means of expression; Expressive gestures and images replaced logic; Stammering speech, repetitions of words, extreme freedom from the structure of verses and sentences characterize the Expressionist style. The poetry has survived the times (in addition to the aforementioned authors T. Däubler, the early G. Benn, the young J. R. Becher). Constructivist poetry found its first forum in the “Sturmkreis” around H. Walden (Stramm, K. Schwitters). Dadaism originated in Zurich (“Cabaret Voltaire”, 1916) and made all traditional norms and values ridiculous (represented by H. Ball and R. Huelsenbeck, among others, H. Arp, W. Mehring, J. Baader and R. Hausmann). From here development lines lead to concrete poetry.
The expressionist drama did not hold its own on stage, with the exception of the satirical society comedies by C. Sternheim. However, the abstract, concentrated stage style had consequences. In narration, the short story short story was initially preferred (Sternheim, G. Heym, A. Döblin, Benn, K. Edschmid; next to Trakl’s lyrical prose); the first important expressionist novel was Döblin’s “The Three Jumps of Wang-lun” (1915); C. Einstein’s short novel “Bebuquin…” (1912) was groundbreaking for experimental prose.
In the first decades of the 20th century Prague developed into an important center of German literature. The insular milieu in the Czech-speaking area produced authors such as Rilke and F. Werfel, who, however, created their main works in other places. Only F. Kafka stayed in the city. His stories (“The Metamorphosis”, 1915) and novels (“The Trial”, published in 1925) have no connection whatsoever with the Expressionist poetry that was written around the same time. The hermetic world of images and oppressive atmosphere did not open up to a larger circle of readers until after 1945 and has had an impact on world literature ever since.