Defeated heroes: constructions of masculinity in Weimar Republic battlefield notes
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Drawing on fifteen battlefield novels written in Weimar Germany between 1928 and 1930, this dissertation examines various models of masculinity construction in terms of their cultural and political significance. A pioneer work, Erich Maria Remarque’s bestseller, Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front) (1928/1929), was a major provocation that unleashed a Culture War. The Dolchstoßlegende, designed to account for the defeat of the German army, had not convinced everyone, so war veterans waited for a better explanation, which Remarque and other leftist-bourgeois novelists provided. Remarque’s group also included Ludwig Renn’s Krieg (1927/28), Edlef Köppen’s Heeresbericht (1930), Ernst Johannsen’s Vier von der Infanterie (1930), Ernst Glaeser’s Jahrgang 1902 (1928), Georg von der Vring’s Soldat Suhren (completed 1923, published 1927), Karl Federn’s Hauptmann Latour (1929), and Arnold Zweig’s Der Streit um den Sergeanten Grischa (1927). Extreme opposition in this Culture War came from the right-wing militarists, including Franz Schauwecker’s Aufbruch der Nation (1929), Werner Beumelburg’s Die Gruppe Bosemüller (1930), Joseph Magnus Wehner’s Sieben vor Verdun (1930), and Hans Zöberlein’s Der Glaube an Deutschland (1931), who all sought to validate the war experience through disproportionate magnification of the German warrior-man. Alternative literary models, including Adrienne Thomas’ Die Katrin wird Soldat (1930), one of the rare war novels by a female author, as well as Theodor Plivier’s Des Kaisers Kulis (1930), and Adam Scharrer’s Vaterlandslose Gesellen (1930), reveal the war in its senseless inhumanity affecting men and women alike, thus serving as rare counterpoints to the dominant masculinist constructions. What this dissertation contributes to existing research is a new interpretive approach about how a text may play into public discourse. The prevailing images of German masculinity that had guided generations of German males were destroyed in the trenches. For ten years thereafter, war literature offered very little that individual male readers could use to reconstruct a positive image of the German man as a social and political being. Since traditional perceptions of masculinity had been shattered, literature had to take up the same war and rework its memory to have a therapeutic effect and fill this gap.