Cultivating a Poetics of Knowledge: H.M. Enzensberger’s Mausoleum, the Botanical, and the Anthropocene

Charlotte Melin


Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s Mausoleum: Siebenunddreißig Balladen aus der Geschichte des Fortschritts (1975) has been widely interpreted as a critique of technological progress. Close reading of its poems about Carolus Linnaeus, Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Darwin, and other figures, however, reveals an ecological turn in Enzensberger’s thinking premised on human relations with the botanical world. This essay proposes an interpretation of the poetic cycle in terms of the Anthropocene, a concept that recognizes the interconnection of human and natural history. Theoretical grounding for the analysis comes from both discussion of the Anthropocene by historian Dipesh Chakrabarty and ecocriticism pertaining to literary plant studies. Following a discussion of the significance of nature poetry for Enzensberger’s work, the essay explores the deployment of botanical tropes in Mausoleum as an aesthetic experiment in the creation of knowledge that is facilitated by the narrative framework of deep history. (CM)

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