Academic journal article German Quarterly

Weltbezwinger. der 'Große Mann' Im Drama 1820-1850

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Weltbezwinger. der 'Große Mann' Im Drama 1820-1850

Article excerpt

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture Baumgartner, Stephan. Weltbezwinger. Der 'große Mann' im Drama 1820-1850. Bielefeld: aisthesis Verlag, 2015. 390 pp. euro39.80 (paperback).

The "world conquerors" or, more modestly, the "great men" invoked in the title of this doctoral thesis from the University of zurich are dramatic portrayals of commanding figures-kings, generals, agitators-who have stood out in history as the leaders of masses. in his study of them Baumgartner touches on a wide range of historical dramas written in German, but he discusses about a dozen in more detail. regarding Christian Dietrich Grabbe as the most important practitioner of the genre, he reviews all of Grabbe's historical plays, but he places the greatest emphasis on Marius und Sulla, Die hohenstaufen, napoleon oder die hundert Tage, and hannibal. in fact, napoleon is his point of reference throughout the book. other noteworthy authors, represented by one play each, are Georg Büchner (Dantons Tod), friedrich hebbel (Judith), Johann Nestroy (Judith und holofernes), franz Grillparzer (König Ottokars Glück und Ende), and karl lebrecht immermann (Andreas hofer). a third group that features less prominently includes Berthold auerbach, friedrich schiller, heinrich von kleist, and karl Gutzkow.

In his introduction, having indicated the parameters of the study, Baumgartner formulates his dual purpose as follows: "anhand dieser texte soll einerseits ein diskursiver zusammenhang aufgezeigt werden, andererseits sollen die lektüren durch den spezifischen fokus auch für die erforschung der einzelnen Werke einen Beitrag leisten" (14). the book consists of five sections. the first deals with the concept of theatricality and theatre imagery; the second with the presentation of human crowds and with practises of mobilising and channeling emotions; the third with the introduction of the hero through his own words as well as the words of others; the fourth with non-verbal methods of generating charisma; the fifth with the secondary characters and alternative ways of winning the favour of the masses or creating a community (see 17).

The "discursive connection" turns out to be the changing relationship between the individual and the masses in the early decades of the nineteenth century. as Baumgartner reminds us, under the impact of new scientific, social, and political developments the old idealistic concept of the autonomous human being was challenged by new realistic insights into the forces determining the life of the collective. …

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