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Shape and form of resolution by Paul Ernst : the search for a moral ideal form
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
In the beginning of the twentieth century, pluralistic tendencies experimented with the deconstruction of traditional artistic forms. The 'classical' notion of form and the 'well-made play' were contested by anti-bourgeois avant-gardes and innovatory practices in theatre (eg. Naturalism). Especially in German Expressionist drama, 'form' in the Aristotelian sense was radically challenged. At the same time, a classical notion of form continued to inspire neo-classical literature. This reactionary tendency in the historical debate on form was, however, mainly neglected by scholarly research after the second World War. Likewise, the practice of the German author Paul Ernst (1866-1933), one of the most important representatives of neo-classical drama, who tried to re-establish a classical concept of form, based on the reception of ancient Greek tragedy, fell into oblivion. By elaborating on his tragedy poetics, I will demonstrate the socio-historical significance of his concept of form for the literary debates of his time. Framed by the intellectual dialogue with the renowned German sociologists Georg Simmel (1858-1918) and Georg Lukacs (1885-1971), the concept of form in Ernst's writings had not only aesthetic, but also ethical underpinnings. The classical example of a tragic hero fighting and dying for his ideals in his poetics aims at a moral revaluation of society. I will argue that, whereas Ernst pursues an objectified, anti-modern ideal form, stripped off 'mean' historical influences, his concept of form turns out to exemplify exactly the 'pluralistic' aesthetic and socio-historical conditions he wanted to amend with his moral criticism.
Journal: Arcadia - International Journal for Literary Studies
Pages: 120 - 138