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Changing Cultural Tastes: Writers and the Popular in Modern Germany

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Changing Cultural Tastes

Writers and the Popular in Modern Germany

Anthony Waine

208 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-57181-522-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (December 2007)

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“…[an] enlightening and eminently readable study…a valuable addition to scholarship on German popular culture as well as German cultural history.”  ·  German Studies Review

“This is a very good book…well, clearly, and forcefully written, in an attractive style with a touch of personal directness though with no sacrifice of academic rigour. The author’s enjoyment of popular culture in various forms is clear and infectious.”  ·  Ritchie Robertson, Oxford University


Changing Cultural Tastes offers a critical survey of the taste wars fought over the past two centuries between the intellectual establishment and the common people in Germany. It charts the uneasy relationship of high and popular culture in Germany in the modern era. The impact of National Socialism and the strong influence from Great Britain and the United States are assessed in this cultural history of a changing nation and society. The period 1920-1980 is given special prominence, and the work of significant writers and artists such as Josef von Sternberg and Bertolt Brecht, Elfriede Jelinek and Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Erwin Piscator and Heinrich Böll, is closely analysed. Their work has reflected changing tastes and, crucially, helped to make taste more pluralistic and democratic.

Anthony Waine teaches German and European Studies at Lancaster University, specialising in courses on the cultural history of the twentieth century. His previous publications include Martin Walser: The Development as Dramatist 1950 – 1970; Martin Walser (Autorenbuch); Brecht in Perspective and Culture and Society in the GDR (both co-edited with Graham Bartram). He has also taught at Hamburg University and Wadham College, Oxford, and was awarded the Pilkington Prize for Teaching Excellence in 2000.

Subject: General Cultural Studies 20th Century History
Area: Germany



Chapter 1. Between ‘Volk’, ‘Kitsch’ and ‘Pop’: A Question of Vocabulary
The Fatal Ambivalence of ‘Volk’
Defining Tastes
Looking Down on the Street
Expressing ‘Free Time’
Filling Cultural and Linguistic Vacuums

Chapter 2. Changing Values: The Intelligentsia, ‘Kultur’ and The People
Church Roots
Till Eulenspiegel – An Early Modern Bestseller
New Channels of Public Information
The Origins of a New Science
A Science of the Nation
Decontaminating the Science of a People

Chapter 3. The Weimar Republic and the Revolt against Good Taste and the Great Tradition
Turning against Tradition
The Opera of the Street – Die Dreigroschenoper
Optical Words – Piscator’s Global Theatre
The Fatal Attractions of Low Culture – Der Blaue Engel
Popular Culture as a Panacea – Der Steppenwolf

Chapter 4. Democratic Compassion for ‘Der kleine Mann’
A Culture about Ordinary People
The Challenge to the German Novelist between 1919 and 1979
Petit Bourgeois Powerlessness and its Consequences
Gender and Strength
Power to the Popular Structures of Feeling

Chapter 5. The Erotic and the Pornographic between High and Low
The Coming of Pop
Post-War Roads to Freedom
The Transatlantic Battle against Taboos
Rolf Dieter Brinkmann’s New Credo
A Marxist Meditation on the Mass Media – Elfriede Jelinek’s Die Liebhaberinnen
An Ethnology of Subterranean Gay Hamburg – Hubert Fichte’s Die Palette

Chapter 6. The Metropolitan Muse
The Anglo-German Connection
The Rolling Stones, and London’s West End
Betwixt Pop and Beat
Piccadilly Circus – The Symbolic Site of Big City Life

Chapter 7. ‘Wicked, Addicted, Free’: The Lure and Lore of the USA
The Cool War
Old World versus New World
The Beat Generation and its Early Reception
The American-German Identity
The Americanised Imagination

Chapter 8. Moods and Morals in the Age of Popular Culture
Beckett and After
Post-Brechtian Theatre
Bauer’s Cultural Analysis
Anatomical Cycles and Bad Tastes
Conclusion: New Ethical Perspectives

Chapter 9. Conclusion: The Democratisation and Pluralisation of Taste
Germany’s Political and Cultural Shifts
The Dialectic between Difficult and Simple Art
Popular Culture and Alltagskultur : A Difference of Language?


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