UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Die Kunstauffassung im Werk Georg Kaisers Petersen, Klaus


This thesis aims to present the various aspects of Georg Kaiser's view of art and to examine its dependence on certain philosophical concepts. The first chapter attempts to show that Kaiser's vision of the regeneration of man was subject to different influences, and that it varied depending on which of the three concepts of "totality," "energy" and "spirit" (Geist) was predominant. He saw man's regeneration either as a return to his original wholeness, or as the intensification of his life-force, or as his spiritualization. The second chapter tries to show that these three concepts determine both Kaiser's views on the psychology of artistic creation, on the purpose, content, form and effect of the drama and his image of the artist. Whereas in some of his writings artistic creation is seen as a self-centered activity which provides the artist either with insight or with compensation for what he is missing in life, in most of them art is considered beneficial to mankind in that it stimulates man's regeneration. It is myth, according to Kaiser, that assures man of his ability to gain perfection. This is why "both the symbolism and the structure of so many of his plays are derived from myth. Art is understood as an attempt to free man from his historical bonds and curtailments, and to place him in a mythical context that links him with his primordial state of perfection. Art thus becomes a redeeming force, the artist a redeemer. The third chapter attempts to demonstrate that Kaiser's self-image in his theoretical writings corresponds with his conception of the artist in general. He wavered between an ideal and a sensuous determination of his existence as an artist. There were times when he would not allow anything or anybody to distract him from writing, and others when he lamented the one-sidedness of this occupation. On various occasions he delcared that he was writing exclusively for himself, and on others he saw himself as a benefactor of mankind. When, after 1933, his work was banned and he himself persecuted, he compared himself with Jesus who had come to rescue mankind and in return was crucified. The fourth chapter seeks to relate the theoretical writings to those of Kaiser's plays which have art and the artist as their theme. It is only in these that a development of Kaiser's conception of the artist becomes apparent. In Kaiser's early work between 1897 and 1911, the genuine artist is described as a somewhat superior being. But although he is critical of society, he is still part of it. In the Expressionist plays from 1912 to 1922, the artist initially is seen in an extreme abstract position from which he propagates to man the vision of regeneration. Towards the end of this period, however, this idealism is rejected as unrealistic and unattainable. The artist becomes a person who tries to achieve perfection within himself and his work. For the following twelve years, the artist virtually disappears from Kaiser's works, and it is only after 1933 that his problems and his role in society are again discussed in Kaiser's plays. For the next five years, Kaiser tried to reconcile the ideal with reality, but after his flight to Switzerland in 1938, art and reality appear to be incompatible. The artist passes his judgement on a mankind which has missed its chance of redemption. He flees from the masses which not only misunderstand but reject his admonitions, and he withdraws into the sabred realm of art in which alone the ideal of perfection can be achieved.

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