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German Literature term paper

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"Meditations of a Non-Political Man" would be an essay in conservative philosophy equal in rank to that of Burke (who was unknown to Thomas Mann) were it not marred by the author's self-consciously hopeless attempt to interpret the opposition between conservative pessimism and republican optimism, between the ironical, contemplative mode of living and the facile earnestness of literary politics, even between 'music' and 'literature', in terms of the state of war between Germany and the West. This was his tribute to the folly of time and place, a tribute so expensive that it left him for the rest of his life with the awkward sensation of being in political debt; and more often than not he tried to pay them off in exceedingly papery currency. The exception is, of course, his denunciations of Hitler's Germany. They were inspired by genuine hatred and contempt, emotions as deep as, in reverse, the national attachment of "Meditations", and by a grief as poignant as the agony of Doctor Faustus - a book which could only have been written by one who felt for Germany what Thomas Mann felt in 1914. But all the forward -looking political exhortations of his later years have, embarrassingly, an ingredient of deliberate well-meaningness and studied simple-mindedness: from the Berlin oration of 1922 (Von deutscher Republik) in which he surprised the German social democrats and trade unionists with a literary bouquet made up of Novalis and Walt Whitman, and with all but the offer of the inheritance of the Romantic Movement, to the Chicago address of 1950 (Meine Zeit), which, on the margin of what is otherwise a moving piece of autobiographical reflection, counselled the two 'good-natured colossi in East and West' to be as good to each other as their soldiering 'Vanyas and Sams' in occupied Germany, united as these were by 'a certain kinship in temperament' and a certain 'gay primitivity of drinking and love-making'. Indeed, the appeals of a Hamlet who, upon discovering that the time was out of joint, was to found a society for the prevention of royal assassinations could not ring more incongruously. After Meditations it was again and again the guilty conscience of the non-political man (related, of course, to the moral scruples of the young artist Tonio Kroger) which persuaded Thomas Mann that he should occasionally play the part of a Lubeck senator reminding, in a voice not unlike brother Heinrich's, the citizens of a ruined city to fulfil their municipal duties."
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"The question becomes more pressing when one can shift back from this scene in the Hamburg theatre to the year 1859, to the celebrations on the occasion of Schiller's hundredth anniversary. It is perhaps no exaggeration to state that never before - and never since - in the history of Western civilization has a writer been so passionately and fervently honoured in his own country - and by the German population of this country, too-as was Schiller in 1859. Again, a touching, a heart-warming spectacle: a man of letters, who, during a short life of barely forty-six years, though beset by incessant illness and poverty, had produced a body of uncompromisingly serious plays, of sophisticated aesthetic and philosophical essays, of high-flown poems and ambitious historical writings, assumes fifty-four years after his premature death the status of a popular hero, and is accorded the accolades of veneration which a nation generally reserves to the powerful and mighty, to its founding fathers and those who in moments of great historical decisions have established and saved its identity. Recalling the festivities of the year 1859, the torch-light parades of students and intellectuals in innumerable cities, the mass meetings of whole populations, the unveiling of dozens of monuments, the endless oratory reverberating through modest citizens' clubs no less than through huge assembly halls, one can ask: was ever a poet so honoured? But upon looking over the list of famous speakers, upon reading their words of praise and adulation, one must realize that it was hardly the poet Friedrich Schiller who was thus honoured"
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"However, despite the fact that many critics in Germany were keen to claim that domestic drama significantly extended the artistic limits of the genre, it was Lessing alone who, as far as one can see, made a critically concerted, rigorous attempt to grasp the historical importance of these developments.In the Hamburgische Dramaturgie he confronted the realisation that the drama in the late eighteenth century was bound by scientific notions of causal coherence and accountability which restricted the creative freedom of the playwright in ways which his contemporaries had failed fully to acknowledge. One can see the radical drive of this concern most clearly perhaps in his tenacious, questioning examination of the tragedies of Corneille (L5, 133-48). He argues here that the drama cannot hope to derive genuine imaginative authority from the fact that it re-enacts actual historical events. Its power to possess the mind of the reader or spectator must stem rather from the unanswerable logic of its inner development: from its capacity to articulate the impulses of the dramatic action as an integrated process of causation which is open to investigation and verification at every stage. The playwright - Lessing is insisting -cannot take for granted the ready assent of the recipient but must actively seek to win it by the relentless clarity of his diagnostic presentation."
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