Abstract

Die Blechtrommel (1959) has inspired widely divergent readings, not least in respect of the aesthetic grounds that the novel offered for the social hope in the wake of Auschwitz. This article re-visits it against the backdrop of Grass’s own recognition of the post-war author’s—personal and collective—sense of complicity; and in that connection it considers how Die Blechtrommel embodies the dialectic of hope and despair more broadly characteristic of Grass’s sense of post-war literary and political engagement. Its contention is that Theodor W. Adorno’s conception of “Mimesis,” as it is developed in Dialektik der Aufklärung (1944) and Ästhetische Theorie (1970), can provide a compelling account for Grass’s aesthetic and ethical achievement. The article examines the senses in which Oskar embodies the dynamic of Mimesis, staking as he does a subversive ethical claim for his notorious drumming and sing-shattering. It then turns to showing how Grass’s portrayal of the “bodily” reveals it as a meeting point of complicity, shame, and guilt—but also a faintly utopian site for a new social order. By thinking through these insights precisely with Mimesis in mind, we might begin to do justice to the elusive moment of hope in Grass’s work.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-2810
Print ISSN
0026-9271
Pages
pp. 99-119
Launched on MUSE
2016-03-15
Open Access
No
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