Edinburgh German Yearbook 5: Brecht and the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity

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9781571134929: Edinburgh German Yearbook 5: Brecht and the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity

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.

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About the Author:

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.

Review:

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. --Modern Language Review

[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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