Edinburgh German Yearbook 5

Edinburgh German Yearbook 5

Brecht and the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity

Edited by Laura Bradley, Karen Leeder


Camden House



Brecht's activities in the GDR, the regime's marginalizing response and posthumous appropriation of his legacy, and creative responses in the GDR and after.
The avant-garde writer and director Bertolt Brecht left the West for good in 1949, returning to East Berlin and founding the Berliner Ensemble. While he quickly became identified internationally as the cultural figurehead of the young socialist state, his relationship with the authorities was always complex, and he was increasingly marginalized by restrictive and authoritarian structures of power. It was only after his death that the regime sought to elevate him as a socialist classic - a shift that entailed the selective appropriation of his legacy and the development of authorized modes of interpretation and performance. Poets, theorists, dramatists, and directors soon reacted against what they saw as the stagnation of Brecht's critical impetus: they began to subject his work to his own treatment, using his texts as a source of material and taking his methods to more radical conclusions. EGYB 5 explores the multiple, contradictory impulses behind these broad paradigm shifts and behind Brecht's activities in the GDR. It investigates the tensions engendered by his co-option as a socialist classic, and the range of creative responses his works have inspired, both in the GDR itself and in reaction to its demise.

Contributors: David Barnett, Laura Bradley, Joy Calico, Paula Hanssen, Patrick Harkin, Loren Kruger, Karen Leeder, Moray McGowan, Stephen Parker, David Robb, Erdmut Wizisla. Laura Bradley is Senior Lecturer in German at the University of Edinburgh. Karen Leeder is Professor of Modern German Literature and a Fellow of New College, University of Oxford.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781571137791), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


October 2011
7 black and white illustrations
250 pages
9x6 in
Edinburgh German Yearbook
ISBN: 9781571134929
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT020000
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Table of Contents

Undogmatic Marxism: Brecht Rehearses at the Berliner Ensemble
Lateness and Late Style in Brecht's Last Poetry
A Life's Work Curtailed? The Ailing Brecht's Struggle with the SED Leadership over GDR Cultural Policy
Brecht and 17 June 1953: A Reassessment
Private or Public? The Bertolt Brecht Archive as an Object of Desire
Remembering Brecht: Anniversaries at the Berliner Ensemble
Brecht's Dependable Disciple in the GDR: Elisabeth Hauptmann
Musical Threnodies for Brecht
The Legacy of Brecht in East German Political Song
Fatzer's Footprints: Brecht's Fatzer and the GDR Theater
Reviving Saint Joan of the Stockyards: Speculation and Solidarity in the Era of Capitalism Resurgent


Bradley and Leeder have done an admirable job of organizing the essays into a comprehensive and cohesive overview of Brecht's life and legacy in East Germany. . . . [T]his work makes a compelling case for the lasting importance of Brecht's contributions to German culture, not only during the prime of his career, but in its sometimes ambiguous twilight as well. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

A valuable addition to an excellent series, this volume focuses on Brecht's relationship with the GDR: his life and work there from May 1949 when he moved to East Berlin, the GDR's controversial management of his legacy after his death in 1956, and the creative responses to his work before and after the demise of the country. Through careful structuring and judicious cross-referencing, the volume's eleven essays achieve a degree of coherence not always found in similar collaborative enterprises. . . . [The final two] essays assert . . . the unmistakable relevance of Brecht's work to a critical understanding of the destructive impact of neo-liberalism and globalization on present-day realities. --Ian Wallace, MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

[G]uides readers through a complex world . . . . I emerged from [reading] the book energized and excited, with several resolutions and new insights. . . . [The volume] not only fill[s] a gap in the discussion of Brecht after 1949, but also . . . propels Brecht's critiques into an unknown future. . . . This book offers one of [the] keys to a vast collection of Brecht scholarship. BRECHT YEARBOOK

[B]oth useful and usable. Readers unfamiliar with Brecht's "Wirkung" in the GDR can use it as a starting point for further inquiry, but it also points out directions in Brecht research that will offer new perspectives for experts in fields such as Brecht's theatrical and musical legacy or his late poetry. . . . [L]ay[s] to rest any claims that Brecht's influence on German culture is on the decline. GERMAN QUARTERLY

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