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Title: The depiction of crowds in 1930s German narrative fiction
Author: Harland, Rachel Fiona
ISNI:       0000 0004 2731 3939
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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This study of 1930s German fiction adds a new dimension to existing scholarship on the depiction of crowds in literature. Whereas previous surveys on the topic have predominantly focused on the crowd as a revolutionary phenomenon judged on the basis of class perspectives, or as a feature of mass society, this investigation deals specifically with reactions to the crowd in its incarnation as a manifestation of and symbol for political fascism. Drawing on a number of contemporaneous theoretical treatises on crowds and mass psychology, it seeks to demonstrate that war, extreme socio-political upheaval and the rise of Nazism produced intense multidisciplinary engagement with the subject among German-speaking intellectuals of the period, and examines the portrayal of crowds in works by selected literary authors in this context. Exploring the interplay between literature and concurrent theoretical works, the thesis asks how writers used specific possibilities of fiction to engage with the theme of the crowd at a time when the worth of art was often questioned by literary authors themselves. In doing so, it challenges the implication of earlier criticism that authors uncritically appropriated the findings of theoretical texts for fictional purposes. At the same time, it becomes clear that although some literary crowd portrayals support a distinction between the nature of theoretical and literary writing, certain crowd theories are as imaginative as they are positivistic. Extrapolating from textual comparisons, the thesis thus challenges the view held by some authors that knowledge produced by theoretical enquiry was somehow truer and more valuable than artistic responses to the politics of the age.
Supervisor: Robertson, Ritchie Sponsor: Exeter College Oxford ; AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: German ; Languages (Medieval and Modern) and non-English literature ; Intellectual History ; Literature (non-English) ; Literatures of Germanic languages