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Reviewed by:
Enttäuschung und Engagement. Zur ästhetischen Radikalität Georg Büchners.
Herausgegeben von Hans Richard Brittnacher und Irmela von der Lühe. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2014. 379 Seiten + 6 s/w Abbildungen. €39,80.

The eighteen papers in this volume were contributions to a 200th-anniversary Büchner conference at the Free University of Berlin in February 2013. They are divided into five sections: one for each of Büchner’s four literary works and one on reception and poetics. With all appropriate respect for Büchner’s unique genius, the anniversary seems to have brought an inflationary phase of attention, much as Heine’s 200th birthday did in 1997. Dismissing the Young Germans and, by implication, Heine, the editors declare that Büchner was “der einzige jugendliche Autor in einer vergreisten Zeit” and that the nearly unknown writer had so revolutionized literature, “dass ein unbefangenes Fortschreiben der literarischen Traditionen danach nicht mehr möglich war” (10). Sometimes the enthusiasts for one or another of our authors need to look around at the larger world. [End Page 132]

On Dantons Tod, Martin Vohler finds that Büchner’s anti-Aristotelian concept associates catharsis with Robespierre’s claim of purity and St. Just’s bloodbath, while Danton deconstructs the Terror. Ariane Martin discusses the Schinderhanneslied at the beginning, which brings a German referent with Hessian dialect coloring into the scene of the French Revolution, and argues that it shows that Büchner identifies with the sans-culottes. Rolf-Peter Janz evaluates Robert Wilson’s staging, a co-production of the Salzburg Festspiele with the Berlin Ensemble in 1998, which was apparently rigidly stylized, with the figures as marionettes in declamatory poses and the common people marginalized and made ridiculous. Bodo Morawe reprints an essay from his co-edited volume, Dichter der Immanenz (Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2013) [ed. note: see review in Monatshefte 107.3, Fall 2015, 499–502]. Michael Rohrwasser takes as a starting point Lukács’s essay of 1937, written in Moscow in the midst of the Stalinist purges without mentioning the passage about the Revolution devouring its children. Rohrwasser discusses the history and effect of the guillotine, which appears in twenty-eight of the thirty-two scenes. He does not make Büchner a partisan of the Terror. The co-editor Hans Richard Brittnacher addresses the universality of treason in a politically excited time and its models in Roman history and the Bible.

The innocuousness sometimes attributed to Leonce und Lena seems to bring out the esoteric in interpreters. To simplify: Antonia Eder finds in the melancholy and ennui that beset the characters a prefiguration of the Freudian death wish and the link of eros and thanatos, and of Nietzsche’s empty, revolving human order. Günter Oesterle sees the play as the “Höhepunkt und das Ende romantischer Komödie“ and a refutation of Börne’s attack on Heine’s word play in De l’Allemagne as an aristocratic device, pointing out that in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, a model for Leonce und Lena, Touchstone’s word plays arouse the melancholy “hero” to activity (it is not the hero, but the courtier Jaques). Two lines of Jaques’s enthusiasm for his encounter with the motley fool provide the motto to the play. The lower-class Valerio with his puns animates the aristocratic loafer Leonce. Romana Weiershausen argues that Büchner opposes and parodies Romantic comedy with circular structure and circular reasoning, coming to a rather bleak conclusion: “eine auswegslose Versöhnung in einem sinnentleerten selbstbezüglichen Komödiensystem” (178). Alexander Honold points out the opposition to time. The monotony of clock time marks the melancholy boredom of life; the apparent recourse to the idleness of the privileged can also be a social utopia for impoverished and burdened people.

Rolf Haaser endeavors to trace the doctor’s program for Woyzeck from experiments that Büchner may have known about. A medical scientist named Wilbrand may have encountered an English study on the outer ear and pursued experiments with a cat; like the other members of his family, he could wiggle his ears. Büchner could have known about this from...


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