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Poetik und Prekarität

Wilhelm Blos’ Naturalismuskritik als Medium für die Entfaltung eines sozialistischen Literaturbegriffs


Michiel Rys


Seiten 149 - 170



Abstract: This article explores the applicability of the sociological term “precarity” in literary studies. Whereas precarity is mostly used to describe contemporary living and working conditions in neoliberalism, it also allows for a critical examination of historical forms of political and economic exploitation and their literary representation. This article argues that norms underpin the frames which in turn determine if forms of suffering can be made visible or ‘narratable’. Literary texts however can go beyond such frames, as they can create an awareness for neglected forms of life and ignite sympathy or empathy among their readers. With reference to the interconnection between precarity, normativity, visibility and affect, this article sheds new light on the polemical discussion between social democrats and naturalist writers at the end of the 19th century in Germany, in which the visibility of and the empathy with precarious workers played a crucial role. A comparative reading of Max Kretzer’s ‚Meister Timpe‘ (1886) and Wilhelm Blos’ ‚Das Ende vom Lied‘ (1892) shows that this was not merely a theoretical debate: the competition between naturalists and socialists can also be found in literary production, where it is played out as intertextual dialogue. Through his assessment of naturalist writings, Blos developed and applied an early socialist, normative concept of literature, reminiscent of Bertolt Brecht’s critique of naturalism in the 1930s.

Keywords: precarity – naturalism – socialism – Max Kretzer (1854-1941) – Wilhelm Blos (1849-1927)

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