Liberating Laughter: Dramatic satire and the German public sphere, 1790-1848
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One of the most far-reaching consequences of the French Revolution was the spread of political debate. Across Europe, people of all sorts — not just princes, but peasants and peddlers as well— started talking politics. When, in the face of this, the princes of the German states censored traditional modes of public discourse including newspapers other print media, the burden of sociocritical discourse fell to an unlikely place: ridiculing entertainment in the form of satire and, more specifically, satiric theater. Not a place of reasoned discourse seeking the expression of consensus, satire attacks and ridicules its object, making it a fitting forum for the dawn of partisan politics. This dissertation traces the historical and cultural conditions peculiar to German dramatic satire between 1790 and 1848 as it compensated for a lack of political debate elsewhere. Looking at how satire in the public space of the theater became one of the premier channels of political debate in an age of revolutionary change and heavy-handed censorship, the work chronologically surveys the most important satiric dramas of the era, including works by August von Kotzebue, Ludwig Tieck, Joseph von Eichendorff, Christian Dietrich Grabbe, Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer, Johann Nestroy, Georg Büchner, and Karl Gutzkow. Through careful explication of the sociopolitical crises in which dramatic satirists intervened, we see how they tried to help the German people laugh their way to liberation.
CitationHertel, Jeffrey (2020). Liberating Laughter: Dramatic satire and the German public sphere, 1790-1848. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20631.
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Jeff got his BA in German, History, and Psychology from Indiana University Bloomington, where he went on to complete an MA in European Studies with a focus on Germany, writing a thesis about how the concept of “movement” or Bewegung changed over the course of the “long nineteenth century.” During his MA studies, he spent six months at the Freie Universität Berlin, taking courses in history and doing research for his thesis at the Staatsbibliothek. His current researc
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