Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"



Politically the First Great War marks the end of a period,
'the Age of Imperialism*, which began with the accession of
Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1888. In literature the War is a dis-
turbing force, but it does not mark a break in development; it
accelerated and intensified expressionism, which had begun before
I9I4.1 The War literature itself is either naturalistic or expression-
istic, or both at once. Expressionism is only the naturalism of
writers who again select their reality as the poetic realists had
done, and who flood their reality with their own passion. There
is the same reversal of fashion in literature as in abstract thought
and painting: just as Ibsen is eclipsed by Strindberg and Wede-
kind, Manet and Renoir yield pride of place to Van Gogh, while
the ideas of intuition as certainty, of life as movement, of the elan
vitaly of creative development, come in with the acceptation of
Bergson, and are reinforced by the phenomenology or mm Wesens-
schau of Edmund HusserL2

The naturalists had aimed at photographic reproduction of
nature; the cry of the expressionists is: Los von der Natur! The
naturalists had been, in intention, outside what they described
(though, of course, their sympathies appeared in their choice of
matter); and their matter might be in its presentation as dull as
life; in other words, the matter was not animated (theoretically)
by mind (Grist}. The expressionists demand both feeling and mind:
in other words they are both passionate and brilliant. They put

1 The term Expressionismus was first used in 1911 by Otto zur Linde as a
label for the Charon group of poets in their opposition to impressionism.
Ausdruckskunst (as against Eindrwkskunst for 'impressionism') is a synonym,

2 See p. 442.