Gerhart Hauptmann and the Naturalist Drama (German Theatre by John Osborne

By John Osborne

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It gained the support of the Hart brothers, but its policy of concentrating on German authors met with no success. Halbe’s Intimes Theater and the various literary societies, the most notable of which was Walter Harlan’s Litterarische Gesellschaft in Leipzig, were intended, without rivalry, to achieve the same purpose as the original Freie Bühne, that is to provide a modern repertoire for a select audience of enthusiasts, free from commercial pressures, and to give to the serious young writer the encouragement of seeing his work performed, even if only in an amateur production.

René König, Die naturalistische Ästhetik in Frankreich und ihre Auflösung (Borna and Leipzig: Noske, 1931), pp. 189f. 43 THE FIRST STEPS TO NATURALISM 25 slightest degree memorable, until after the theoretical insistence on the observed realities of the social world had been somewhat diluted. 44 To reach a full understanding of German Naturalism it is essential to realize that the ambiguities and contradictions of the movement cannot conveniently be reduced to the inevitable discrepancy between impossibly rigorous theoretical demands and the limitations of any artistic medium, between ‘Nature’ and ‘Art’, but that the ambiguities represent a genuine reluctance to embrace fully certain new views even though these were found intellectually attractive.

Heinrich Hart attacks Zola’s theory of the experimental novelwhich is at best a metaphor, at worst a polemic over-statement—with a curious literal-mindedness. Not without a certain Schadenfreude, he invokes the authority of none other than Claude Bernard (whose Introduction a l’étude de la médecine expérimentale had prompted Le Roman expérimental) to support his view that an experimental novel is an impossibility: ‘In art and literature personality is dominant. ’33 In all this Heinrich Hart does not differ radically from the more traditional critic, Karl Hillebrand (the father of the Naturalist writer, Julius Brand).

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