The Archimedean podium : public speeches in postwar Germany, 1953-1967 / Sonja Boos.
“The Archimedean Podium: Public Speeches in Germany, 1953–1967” is an interdisciplinary study of a diverse set of public speeches given by major literary and cultural figures of the 1950s and 60s. This dissertation argues that while public speeches were a significant vehicle for the construction of a public discourse in postwar Germany, they were constrained by a set of historical and discursive taboos as well as the problematic “legacy” of Hitler’s and Goebbels’s demagogic rhetoric. Paying close attention to the content, form, and rhetorical delivery of the speeches in question, the project critically engages the very premise of an objective, so to speak Archimedean vantage point from which public speakers could help constitute West Germany’s public sphere.This dissertation treats its subject both theoretically and historically: close readings of various canonical speeches serve to improve our understanding of the spoken, performative dimension of public speech—commonly documented in written form—while illuminating the tensions between aesthetic representation and political agency in light of contemporary theories emphasizing the social constructedness of discourse, experience, and identity. I argue that the complex and sometimes fraught relationships between speaker, text, and addressees are symptomatic of the historical conditions of aesthetic and intellectual production at this time—most notably the felt need to respond to the breach in tradition caused by the Holocaust and the problem of social and cultural identity in light of persecution and exile. With the exception of Ingeborg Bachmann, an Austrian citizen who lived in Italy, and Uwe Johnson, who delivered his speech to a Jewish audience in New York, the speeches considered in this study are given by Jewish exiles who return to Germany, where their native language—enunciated, resisted, and reappropriated in the presence of a live audience—acts upon both the speakers and their addressees.The first chapter examines speeches by Hannah Arendt (Laudatio auf Karl Jaspers, 1958; Lessingpreisrede, 1959) and Uwe Johnson (Rede vor dem Jewish American Congress, 1967, as retold in the novel Jahrestage) that mark the limits of both classical epideictic and deliberative speech, while putting pressure on the “revelatory character” (Arendt) of the spoken word. The second chapter compares Martin Buber’s Friedenspreisrede of 1953, which enacts the basic tenets of his dialogical philosophy, with Paul Celan’s and Ingeborg Bachmann’s Büchnerpreisreden (1960; 1964), both of which as it were perform their resistance to any form of public dialogue in a German context. The third chapter investigates the shifting relationships between judicial speech and the eulogy by examining the status of testimony and citation in Peter Szondi’s Antrittsrede at the Freie Universität Berlin (1961) and Peter Weiss’s play Die Ermittlung and his Lessingpreisrede (both 1965). By rethinking the theoretical and philosophical claims of several writers—about self-revelation, dialogue, and testimony—in light of the particular practice of their public speeches, “The Archimedean Podium: Public Speeches in Germany, 1953–1967” means to offer a new entry into the question of the “public sphere” and contribute to the cross-disciplinary study of postwar German literature, politics, and culture.
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:20:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/bib209218