The transformation of the concept "Man is good" in German expressionism

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The research considers the texts by F. Werfel, L. Frank and E. Kästner, with the titles that incorporate one of the most critical expressionist concept «The man is good (Der Mensch ist Gut)». This concept provides a coherent and consistent description for the forms to comprehend the relationship between the man and the world, made by the artists of the 10 - 30s of the 20th century. It is pointed out that the concept under study synthesizes religious motives and revolutionary-futuristic searches, relevant for the authors named. The interrelationship of the studied texts, the creative biography of the writers and the context of the epoch are examined in detail. Conceptual, thematic and comparative-typological analyses allow to highlight the semantic core of the concept and to consider the evolution of features, qualities and characteristics that define the concept “Man is good” by each author. The concept evolution is represented by Werfel’s Messiah striving for the coming kingdom of justice, then he is eventually replaced by Franck’s incarnation of an ordinary man, capable of awakening and self-sacrificing in the name of peace; and finally he is substituted by a Kästner’s petty bourgeois - a caricature of the protagonist - who believes in own Mandate of Heaven. The research shows that the meaningful difference of the concept «Man is good» generates transformation in the discursive disposition of the texts, varying from the hymn praising the new Man, to the appealing text and accusation of indifference and obedience. The important issues of the research are also lexical-grammatical organization of the «Man is good» concept, its correlation with the set of motives and images by each author, the problems of interaction of the text with its «name». The semantic dynamics of the concept is revealed via its connection with the motives of movement, formation, music, as well as with Christian and eschatological images. The author draws conclusions about the difference between the functions of a non-predicate, rhythmically unrelated to the main text title of Werfel’s poem and the subject-predicative formula used by Kästner as the title and refrain, which permeates his entire text.


Concept, title-finale complex, existentialism, franz werfel, leonhard frank, erich kästner

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IDR: 147236565   |   DOI: 10.14529/ssh210413

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