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Title: The elusive transcendent : the role of religion in the plays of Frank Wedekind
Author: Whalley, F. A.
Awarding Body: University College of Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 1996
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This work demonstrates that Frank Wedekind was preoccupied with Christianity and the search for transcendence, a fact that has been largely overlooked by Wedekind research to date. Using hitherto little-known material (his unpublished notebooks) and close readings of his works, both major and minor, I argue that Wedekind was engaged on a quest to discover the role and purpose of religion in a post-Nietzschean world. His first plays reject conventional beliefs and yet themselves display elements of the search for transcendent value. The Lulu-plays explore the possibility that sexual liberation might provide an answer, but conclude the opposite; Der Marquis von Keith considers whether it is possible or worthwhile to believe in Christianity without God. In Hidalla, Wedekind portrays a Christ-figure for the Wilhelmine era, whose gospel of a new sexual morality is deeply flawed. In this Christ-figure, Karl Hetmann, Wedekind also places elements of himself and this becomes a characteristic of his later plays, in which successive not-quiteWedekind characters seek their own form of transcendence and fail: Buridan, for example, the protagonist of Die Zensur, extols reason but ultimately capitulates to the God of mere superstition. In his last plays, Wedekind presents further versions of himself in Messianic characters who are involved in a cycle of quest and failure within an artistic realm. This suggests that he sees his role as that of martyr to an uncomprehending society: his plays become secular rituals, in which the suffering artist is the redeeming sacrifice necessary for ordinary, bourgeois life to continue; but the impossibility of finding transcendence in any of the strategies developed by his protagonists means he is doomed to repeat the same cycle over and over again.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available