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Title: Literary experiment - critical experiment? : a study of four German writers of the 1960s
Author: Rooney, Kathryn
ISNI:       0000 0001 3534 803X
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1977
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The body of literature which this thesis will examine forms a relatively neglected thread of literary development in Germany during the 1960’s. I stress the question of development because this work will not seek to deal with main stream writers such as Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, Martin Walser or Uwe Johnson. Accepting that such figures form the dominant corpus of literary activity, then the first and more widely discussed area of development in the Sixties encompasses the relationship between literature, politics and society, and the drive to make literature more politically and socially relevant. This development itself had different elements. Firstly, documentary writing sought on the one hand to project historical and objective fact, as in the dramas of Hochhuth, Kipphardt, and Weiß, and on the other to present authenticity, through autobiography, tape-recorded Interviews or the fictionalised but documentary reports of working life by Günther Wallraff and the accounts of historical events by Alexander Kluge. Another movement towards workers' writing emerged later. Alongside this general interest ran a current of literary- activity which attracted the epithet 'experimental'. It would be inaccurate to speak in terms of an experimental movement because the writing which attracted the tag 'experimental' varied considerably, indeed its application was so wide that one critic exclaimed in despair: Unbestimmt wie die Texte selbst, wenn man sie an die traditionollen Mustorn des Erzählens mißt, ist der Begriff der experimentellen Prosa. However, the four writers I have chosen have all been labelled thus and I will hope to show in what ways their writing can be linked and in what ways their works differ. They are Helmut Heissenbüttel, Franz Mon, Becker, Jürgen and Ror Wolf. In those writers, literary self-consciousness based on a questioning of language creates texts where the processes of articulation rather than what is articulated come to the fore. In this, these four writers do not stand alone. Figures from earlier - Arno Schmidt, the Expressionists, Döblin, Broch, Hofmannsthal, the Naturalists especially Arno Holz, could also justly demand inclusion in a work discussing writing as ‘experimental’. In the Sixties, too, the Wiener Gruppe, and poets such as Gomringer could also claim consideration. Even, within the area of prose, rather than poetry, many others could vie for consideration, for example, the ‘pop’ writers such as Wolf Wondratschok, Uwe Brandner, Brazon Brock and Wolf Vostell; the short texts of Reinhard Lettau, or the 'Maulwürfe' by Gunthor Eich; the works of Helga Novak, Friederike Mayröcker, Peter Bichsel, Michael Scharang. All of those could lend themselves profitably to examination in this context. I have limited the main textual analysis to one work by each of the four writers. This is because much of the available criticism of those writers and their work consists of newspaper reviews and brief articles or references within articles and this has load to a tendency for the critic to be satisfied with generalisation and comment rather than analysis. A more consistent foundation for understanding writing of this kind is needed in order to show what a detailed critical reading of such texts can achieve. The four writers to be considered each represent one facet of the wider canvas of literary experimentation during the Sixties. Ror Wolf’s work ‘Fortsetzung des Berichts’ is a long prose-text concerned with questions of perception and articulation which also occupied Becker in his shorter texts, with very different results. All the writers concern themselves with these two issues: Franz Mon stands closest to the concrete poets and the Wiener Gruppe: ‘herzzero’ is an interesting attempt to maintain the techniques of such poetry in a longer context, a concrete novel. Finally, Heissenbüttel is the most prominent of the writers both in literary and critical terns. His six Textbucher published between 1960 and 1967 provide an opportunity to view his development over a longer period from the more poetical early texts to the collages of the last Textbuch. This selection of writers and works will also facilitate examination of a range of problems involved in approaching self-consciously experimental literature and contemporary works as a whole. An initial account of the issues raised by writing of this kind for the immediate context of cultural awareness may be derived from a consideration of the uses to which the term experimental was put in Germany during the Sixties.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PT Germanic literature