Among the avant-garde of the early twentieth century, the German movement remains one of the least understood in the current avant-garde and modernism debates. Rainer Rumold fills this gap with a first large-scale reassessment of the heyday and afterlife of German expressionist and Dada productions as a prolonged crisis of literary culture. Mapping avant-garde activity in Germany in a series of critical constellations from roughly 1918 to the post-World War II period, Rumold divides its history into three phases: the ""revolt"" of contradictory discourses in the teens and twenties; the conservative reversal vs. a radicalized anti-art stance of the avant-garde in exile; and the ""post-avant-garde."" The latter is viewed as a unique step toward the postmodern represented in the late (postfascist) work of the once-radical expressionist Gottfried Benn and that of the neo-avant-gardists Helmut Heissenbuttel and Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Throughout, Rumold notes a symptomatic oscillation between the avant-garde's wish to abolish ""art"" and the apotheosis of art as a form of redemption - the ""Janus face"" of his title. In highly original readings of Carl Einstein, Walter Benjamin, Bertold Brecht, George Grosz, and others, he shows us a German avant-garde less opposed to the wholesale destruction of bourgeois tradition than its European counterparts and more committed to finding new ways for artworks to function within the modernist sphere. A major study of material that should be widely known in the U.S., Rumold's work is essential to an understanding of German politics and culture, as well as modern poetry, fiction, and the visual arts.
RAINER RUMOLD is a professor of German at Northwestern University. He has written books on Helmut Heissenbuttel and Gottfried Benn und der Expressionismus (Athenaum, 1982), and he is the coeditor of Eugene Jolas's Man from Babal (Yale, 1998) and The Ideological Crisis of Expressionism: The Literary and Artistic German War Colony in Belgium 1914-1918 (Camden House, 1990).
1. The Historical Avant-Garde and Literary Crisis 1. Expressionism: The Janus-faced Agon. 2. The Dadaist Anti-Art Event in Zurich and Berlin, or the Return of the Literary Text II. The Crisis of the Avant-Garde in Political Exile 3. From Weimar Culture to Political Exile: Two Phases/Faces of the Crisis of the Avant-Garde 4. The Self-Effacement of the Avant-Garde Author, or the Metamorphosis of Surrealist Myth into Action: Carl Einstein and the Anarchist Movement during the Spanish Civil War (1936-7) 5. The ""Image Sphere"" vs. Mataphor. Walter Benjamin Debating Expressionism. 6. The Avant-Garde against Itself: George Grosz and Bertolt Brecht - from Postexpressionist Berlin to the American Exile, and the Postwar Cold War Aftermath III. The Avant-Garde at a Standstill 7. Gottfried Benn and Nietzsche; 1937/8: The Aporia of Writing History in ""Wolf's Tavern"" 8. Utopia/Dystopia - from Expressionism to Hans Magnus Enzensberger: The Avant-Garde at a Standstill