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Lost American Opportunity: Two 1931 German Plays about Mary Baker Eddy Glen W. Gadberry My personal interpretation is that Germany has such a wealth of love, mercy, and other virtues found in the Christian faiths that we do not need an American sect, which in my opinion, does not teach humility, but strives for business success in addition to religious goals.—Use Langner (19.31)' In 1930 and 1931, a critical biography and two plays about Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy appeared in Germany, and a third was announced. They were but part of the Euro-American revival of interest in the problematic founder of Christian Science , who had died in 1910. "Mother Mary," as she came to be called, remains a fascinating and outrageous character. Mark Twain, her contemporary, found much to ridicule and fear in her despotic irrationality, yet he could conclude, "Closely examined, painstakingly studied, she is easily the most interesting woman on the planet, and in several ways, as easily the most extraordinary woman that was ever born upon it."2 His various satires on Christian Science, combined into a 1907 book, helped publicize the scandals, principally plagiarism, greed, and drug use, that kept Eddy in the public view even years after her death. If religion is the opiate of the masses, morphine was the crutch of Mary Baker Eddy. Her chronic use of the then legal drug and her probable addiction were more a scandal of hypocrisy than narcotic abuse itself: Christian Science forbade the use of any medicine , even to ease pain. While charges of plagiarism would occupy her ideological descendants, it was her greed which most outraged her critics. She denied the material but actively sought, acquired, and held material wealth. After starting her own academy, she charged exorbitant amounts for healing lessons and claimed that God set her fee structure; she demanded kick-back percentages from her 486 Glen W. GadberryASI graduates and sued if any fell behind; she also sued for full royalties on her publications, even though, as Mark Twain sardonically observed, she claimed they were divinely written.' The faithful saw her as God's incarnation; her American critics as an ignorant and money-loving huckster; the Germans as an American capitalist, preying upon a simple land's unbounded naivete. The Eddy phenomenon, so wrote a Berlin critic, "was only possible in America, whose people in their constant search for business are more receptive for superstitions and sects than any other people on earth."4 Although this kind of religion-money combination is all too familiar in the American religious marketplace, it was incomprehensible for Germans, in part because the country 's two authorized Christian faiths, Roman Catholic and Lutheran , enjoyed the benefits of a legislated church tax. In America, the Eddy debate was played out in print and pulpits , but in Germany it was also treated in the theater: Wunder in Amerika (Miracle in America) by Ernst Toller and Hermann Kesten premiered at the Mannheim Nationaltheater on 17 October 1931, and three weeks later, on 4 November, Use Langner's Die Heilige aus USA (The Saint from the USA) opened at Reinhardts Theater am Kurfürstendamm in Berlin/ Written independently , the plays cover the last forty-five years of Eddy's life: her miracle cure, the founding of a Christian Science empire, subsequent physical decline and death at age eighty-nine. Written and staged with epic and expressionist embellishment, Langner's version is the more inventive and significant as both text and performance. It will be the principal focus, but paired with ToI1er-Kesten the Eddy texts and performances allow us to imagine a portion of the complex mosaic that is German theater history and at the same time to infer the limits of the American theater. A major impetus and source for these concurrent plays was the essay "Das Leben und die Lehre der Mary Baker-Eddy" ("The Life and Teachings of Mary Baker Eddy") by Austrian cultural critic and author Stefan Zweig (1881-1942). It was initially published in the Berlin journal Neue Rundschau in three installments in May, June, and July 1930. The essay was subsequently repackaged early in 1931 in Zweig 's three-part Heilung...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 486-509
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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