German Literature

German Literature
  • German authors
  • Literature in the Middle Ages
  • 16th, 17th and 18th century literature
  • Enlightenment literature
  • Romantic literature
  • Naturalist and Expressionist literature
  • 20th century literature
  • German war and post-war literature
  • Contemporary literature

Naturalism, Expressionism and Epic Theater

The influence of developments in Nietzsche's philosophy on the most important literary movements (naturalism, expressionism and epic theatre) is highly evident in the period between the late 19th and early 20th Century. The overwhelming criticism of the social values present in this philosopher's work was added to the appearance of Sigmund Freud's and Carl Gustav Jung's psychoanalysis and Oswald Spengler's philosophy.

Naturalism paints a picture of a desolate world in which people are trapped and doomed to failure and disaster due to uncontrollable forces. The movement's principles were described by Arno Holz in his 1891 treatise "Art", and naturalist elements can be found in Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler's play, although the main representative of this movement was actually Gerhart Hauptmann (The Weavers, 1892).

Expressionism emerged as a literary movement in 1910, its main purpose being the expression and rendering of feelings, experiences and inner reactions. Frank Wedekind was one of these expressionists, with plays such as "Pandora's Box" upon which Alban Berg's opera, "Lulu", was based. It was also later made into a film at the hand of G.W. Pabst with Louise Brooks as Lulú. The expressionist movement produced many exceptional poets such as Georg Trakl, with poems full of nostalgia and loneliness, Georg Heym, and Franz Werfel.

Bertolt Brecht started out as an expressionist but later developed an individual style which he named epic theater; among his disciples was Peter Weiss.