Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was one of the twentieth-century’s most influential playwrights, known in particular for his theory of the epic theater. His writings have been translated into more than 40 languages and his plays continue to be performed all over the world. In addition to his success on the German stage, Brecht was a gifted and prolific poet, whose more than 6000 poems likewise constitute a significant body of work. In this seminar, we will focus on the writings from Brecht’s (early) Berlin period, roughly the years 1920 to 1933. At the time, Berlin was a bustling political, artistic, and cultural center— full of explosive political constellations and intense artistic controversy—and Brecht had a part in both its cultural construction and its literary (and cinematic) representation. Combining historical and systematic approaches, we will concentrate on discussing the aftermath of the First World War, the experience of urban life, Brecht’s depiction of the connection between crime and capitalism, and his keen interest in understanding a new social phenomenon: the masses. In his writings, Brecht addressed many pressing social, political, and artistic issues whose discussion is still relevant today. He was also known to constantly question the place of theater and literature in society, and revisiting some of his questions will allow us to inquire into the role of literature in contemporary society as well. The course will include the discussion of fine art and film as well as of texts from different literary genres, including poems, short stories, plays, theoretical essays, and opera libretti. Taught in English.
Satisfies Core Area IV (World Languages and Culture) and the Franklin College Literature Requirement.