Brecht and Sinn und Form: The creation of cold war legends

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Abstract

Brecht and Peter Huchel's Sinn und Form are among the few examples of early GDR cultural life with a genuine capacity to accumulate cultural capital on the international stage. The analysis of Brecht's collaboration with Sinn und Form in the Deutsche Akademie der Künste offers a fresh perspective upon their attainment of a legendary pre-eminence in German cultural life during the Cold War. Brecht's espousal of Marxism-Leninism and of a relative artistic autonomy, informed by political constraints, ensured some common ground with the SED leadership. However, the Party's enforcement of a binary opposition between Socialist Realism and Formalism became a crucial field of conflict, spawning major illusions and antagonisms between the artistic and political elites. In key contributions to Sinn und Form, Brecht foregrounded aesthetic considerations and historical responsibility, yet the SED's nationalistic discourse colouring Socialist Realism was motivated by the geopolitical imperative of justifying the GDR's status among the people's democracies of the Eastern Bloc. This, in turn, justified the SED's subordination of cultural to political capital, dismissing the claims of elite culture in a series of staged events. The position of Brecht and his supporters was relentlessly eroded until, quite improbably, the crisis of 17 June 1953 allowed them to turn the tables. While popular opposition was suppressed, Brecht simultaneously re-affirmed his loyalty to the weakened SED leadership, whose revolutionary achievements he continued to praise, and reasserted the relative autonomy of the elite Akademie and its journal. Brecht and Sinn und Form capitalised upon their enhanced reputations, securing the legendary status that later repression did nothing to diminish. © The author 2007.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-533
Number of pages15
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Volume60
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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