This article looks at how one West German poet, Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, adapted the spontaneity found in American Beat writing as an ethical principle in his own work. Like many West German writers in the 1970s, Brinkmann wished to turn away from the highly moralistic literature that had been prevalent in the post-war years. His poems suggest that such moral values have become part of an overly rigid system, which is eliminating the individual's capacity for spontaneity. For this reason, ethics should not be seen as the duty to lay down moral standards, but rather as the questioning of any kind of predetermination or fixture. This article insists that it is vital to distinguish between authorial levels if one is to understand the ethical project in Brinkmann's work. While many poems seem to feature a narrator that is not clearly ethical, this is part of the implied author's strategy for eliciting a particular effect


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pp. 1-31
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