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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

88                     MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

the dross in his system is sufficiently burnt out1 by his sexual
paroxysms the painter hero, impotent in his art, has visions of a
love without the female instrument: 'etivas gan^ Nervoses, Raffi-
niertes, Kotnpli^iertes milsste es werden\ a dream-love, 'Glilck derEnt-
haltsamkeit\ 'die keusche Wollusf\ for fulfilment of desire destroys
its mystic beauty. Here particularly - as in the rich colouring of
the painter's nerve-whipped visions, in which the heavens open,
wreathed in symphonies of purple perfumes and peopled by fire-
red beings and blue vampires - we detect the influence of Huys-
mans. In Die gute Scbule Bahr shows his uncanny flair for coming
fashions; he (a c Vorempfinder*} is the herald of every new move-
ment, and, if he did not actually turn the course of literature, he
was at various stages the first to point out the change in direction.
He had himself popularized the term 'die Moderns''; in Zur Kritik
der Moderns (1890) he shows what the movement is. In Die Uber-
mndungdes Naturalismus (1891) he exposes the ultimate absurdity
of naturalism: (Je dichter der Naturalismus der deutschen Dramatiker
sich der Erfullung seines eignen Prin^ips nahert, desto welter entfernt er
sich von der Moglichkeii kunstlerischer Wirkung. Je mehr er unpersonliche
Wirkung wird, entgeisteter Stoff, desto mebr verliert er die let^te Gewalt
uber unser Gemut. Er wirkt dann genau ebenso wie die Dinge selbst, die
immer erst unserer Umarbeit brauchen, urn fur die Empfindung ^ubereitet
und angerichtet %u werden* In Expressionismus (1914) he probes the
new movement and interprets its theories. Bahr's criticism is from
the first impressionistic; that is, while he lays down laws which
he argues with a show of absolute logic and often with subtlety,
he is for the most part expressing his own personality. Compared
with academic criticism, in which close concatenation counts, such
personal impressions in loose essay form may seem erratic; and
Bahr, particularly in his later collections of essays,2 may ramble
on and intersperse irrelevant matter; giving himself, and whatever
of his subject may shine through himself, his critical method is
lightly selective and his aim is readability. His 'Protean person-
ality* or 'fluid ego* (to use terms generally applied to him) fitted
him admirably for his ceaseless outpouring of such easily gliding
and soft if sinewy critical prose. His mind, for all its voracity of

1 Like Des Esseintes, the hero of A rebours, 'sur h chemin, degrise, sml,
abominablement lass?.

2  Wiener Theater (1899), Re^ensionen (1903), Glossen (1907), Das Eilderbucb
(1921).