Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

Margins of modernity : the citizen and the criminal in the Weimar Republic / by Leslie Ann Pahl.

Publication | Library Call Number: PT772 .P34 1991

This study focuses on the representation of criminality in the following literary and filmic texts of the Weimar Republic: Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse, Hugo Bettauer's Der Frauenmorder and Alfred Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz. These works provide a context for a broader discussion of how issues of criminality--as a sign of cultural marginality, an index of economic displacement, or as an icon of danger and desire in a routinized world--delineate and redefine social and cultural identities. Having been radically destabilized in the wake of war and rampant inflation, Germany offered a receptive medium in which the negative culture of criminality could flourish. Numerous contemporary documents are used to draw out tensions and contradictions raised by the functional texts. What emerges from this investigation is a graphic confrontation with questions of modernity and marginality inflected by the historical particulars of the Weimar Republic. With Dr. Mabuse as its focus, Chapter One examines the unsettled social currents of the Republic in 1922. The "ugly" object of crime is transformed into moments of spectacle which present criminality in a morally ambiguous light, deferring judgment regarding law and order. Mabuse thus challenges cherished notions of stability and social order. Chapter Two examines various responses of German authors and critics to the popularity of detective fiction, which was perceived as a sign that mass culture was further marginalizing an already displaced elite culture. Der Frauenmorder exploits the Weimar public's fear of and fascination for crime and at the same time reaffirms that value of besieged (high) literary culture. Alfred Doblin's epic modernist novel, Berlin Alexanderplatz, renegotiates the boundaries of the criminal and the non-criminal to suggest affinities between normative society and its marginalized elements. Doblin situates criminality within an intricate dialectic of order and disintegration, enlisting issues raised by episodes of criminality in the service of social critique.

Variant Title
Citizen and the criminal in the Weimar Republic
Pahl, Leslie Ann.
Berlin (Germany)
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:46:00
This page: