Brecht and Exile: Poetry after Weimar, Poetics during Blitzkrieg

Theodore F. Rippey


In exile, Brecht’s increasingly acute sense of writing’s ethical transgressions spurred a reconceptualization of literary transmission and duration. This reconceptualization had to address two splits: a divorce of the emotional and the intellectual, pursued in the neusachlich cultivation of Kälte during the Weimar years, that left its proponents ill-equipped to respond to the fascist dynamization of the masses in the 1930s; and a divorce of poetics from history, which ended the fantasy of direct social influence through literary writing. Recognizing the impossibility of shaping society via his texts, Brecht began to experiment with paradigms of literary communication that would not compel antifascist action, but could nonetheless foster an intellectual and sentimental profile less compatible with the modes of aesthetic and political organization employed by the National Socialists. Analytical focus on these experiments reveals dimensions of Brecht’s exile poetry and journal entries that exceed the scope of Marxist antifascism. (TFR)