Christian Dietrich Grabbe (1801-1836) and the Third Reich / by Ronald Austin Davies
Includes bibliographical references (p. 272-289)
Christian Dietrich Grabbe is a remarkable figure in German literary history. Almost totally rejected in his own time, his career was of some interest for almost every succeeding generation in the one hundred years following his death. Such interest in itself is not unusual. What is exceptional in the example of Grabbe is the diversity of different groups that eventually became interested in him, each time creating what amounts to a new image of the playwright. Seen from this angle, Grabbe becomes important not only as a pioneering dramatist, but also as a case-study in the dependence of literary fame on extra-literary (political, social, ideological) factors. The method employed here is to follow the rejection of Grabbe by his contemporaries and the gradual acceptance of him in the course of the next century through a study of the critical writings about him. The first chapter surveys the principal sources of biographical information and shows that many of the legends about Grabbe began in his own lifetime. Three subsequent chapters explore the reception of Grabbe during the remainder of the nineteenth century, from the turn of the century to the end of the First World War, and through the Weimar Republic. During these one hundred years, the emphasis gradually shifted from the poet's personality to his dramatic works, but infatuation with the Grabbe legend persisted. Finally, two chapters are devoted to the manipulation of Grabbe to fit the ideological needs of the Third Reich. This dissertation examines a few of the many ways Grabbe was received in the century following his death in 1836. Although the study culminates with the appropriation of Grabbe during the Nazi period, it is important to note that "appropriation" on a smaller scale had been taking place all along. The vicissitudes of Grabbe's reputation within the Nazi period are, however, of particular interest. The use of him by National Socialist critics provides an example of how, in a totalitarian society, the urgent need for ideological legitimacy can cause a relatively marginal writer to be elevated to the status of literary hero and martyr.
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