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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

XVIII

THE DRAMA
OF EXPRESSIONISM

In the expressionistic drama there is a continuation of Haupt-
mann's innovation in Die Weber and Florian Geyer: the charac-
ters are not extraordinary individuals but types representing
groups and masses; and since they are symbols they are given no
names, but appear as 'the father' (that is, any father), 'the son',
'first sailor', 'second sailor', 'the clerk3, etc. The characterization is
not by stage directions but by what is said and done on the stage.
The language, following the theory that expression must be 'gebdlt\
i.e. frantically concentrated like strength in a clenched fist, is
grotesquely ungrammatical - conjunctions and articles fall out,
sentences are syncopated, separable verbs obstinately cling together
- and the clause is reduced to rudimentary forms, differing, how-
ever, from the Telegrammstil of the naturalists in that whereas the
latter indicated the conversational carelessness of mental apathy,
a scattering of small shot, the expressionistic shortening comes
from the swiftness of ecstasy or frenzy, the whizzing of a bullet
straight at the mark. In dramatic construction there is a return to
antiquated technique: monologues reappear, verse and prose alter-
nate, rhyme heads off a climax. For the looseness of construction
and stylistic grotesqueness of these plays the models were found,
not only in Strindberg1 and Wedekind, but in the Sturm und Drang
dramas of Lenz and Klinger, and particularly in Georg Biichner's
(1813-37) Woy^eck (published 1879). The new technique appears

1 Technique is influenced by Strindberg's Nach Damaskus (1898); here
there is no plot, and the construction is merely a juxtaposition (^Nebenem-
ander*} of 'stations'. All the strength of such plays is in the passion and despair
of theit monologues. These 'ecstatic* explosions are derided as *$chmdramtf
(particularly those of August Stramm and Oskar Kokoschka) and *0 Mensch
Drameri.

388