In recent years, the notion of "crisis" has emerged as a master paradigm through which the Weimar Republic saw itself and through which historians today make sense of the interwar years in Germany. Contributing an aesthetic dimension to this discussion, the following article investigates the notion of crisis in the literary culture of the late Weimar Republic. Comparing Irmgard Keun's novel Gilgi-eine von uns (Gilgi-One of Us, 1930) and Friedrich Wolf's play Cyankali (1929), I trace constructions of femininity and the theme of abortion to show how these authors, like many others at the time, generate narratives of existential crisis. Close analysis of these texts allows me to show to what degree such narratives tended to draw on a repertoire of melodramatic forms-tropes of female victimization, highly expressive language, and sudden shifts of fate confront characters with impossible decisions between love and work, life and death. While these devices ultimately serve more progressive ends in Keun's hand than in Wolf's, I argue that they constitute a dominant aesthetic trend that accompanies the ostensibly "sober" aesthetics of New Objectivity and imbues the latter with an undercurrent of urgency. (KB)


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pp. 71-95
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