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DEATH IN GERMANY: ORIGINAL ARTWORK AND HISTORIC TEXTS IN CONVERSATION BY LIDIA CARA A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Glenn Cuomo Sarasota, Florida May, 2009
ii CONTENTS Introduction 1Johannes von Tepl and Humanism 3Artwork for Der Ackermann aus Bhmen Chapter 3 25Heinrich Heine and Romanticism 33Artwork for Morphine 48Gottfried Benn and Expressionism 56Artwork for Mann und Frau gehn durch die Krebsbaracke 67Conclusion 75Works Cited 79
iii DEATH IN GERMANY: ORIGINAL ARTWORK AND HISTORIC TEXTS IN CONVERSATION Lidia Cara New College of Florida, 2009 ABSTRACT Der Ackermann aus Bhmen (c. 1400) by Johannes von Tepl presents a debate between Death and a widower, Heinrich Heine's dark poem "Morphine" (c. 1850) invokes Thanatos, and in "Mann und Frau gehen durch die Krebsbaracke" (1912) Gottfried Benn describes female cancer patients in detached, clinical terms. These changing attitudes towards death in German literature correspond to developments in personal expression in the visual arts. My project engages in a conversation with these writings through my own artwork, giving agency to the dying and using conventions contemporary to each text: fifteenthcentury woodcuts, Romantic drawings, and Expressionist prints. Dr. Glenn Cuomo Humanities
1 INTRODUCTION Ir Tod, euch sei verfluchet! (Death, be accursed!) (Saaz 16-17) cries the widower in an Early New High German prose poem. Gut ist der Schlaf, der Tod ist besser (Sleep is good, but Death is better) (Heine, Poems 273) muses a poet from his Romantic-era deathbed. Erde ruft (Earth calls) (Benn 186) states an Expressionist-era physician. Spaning over half a millennium, the literary works Der Ackermann aus Bhmen (The Plowman from Bohemia) by Johannes von Tepl, Morphine by Heinrich Heine, and Mann und Frau gehn durch die Krebsbaracke (Man and Woman Go through the Cancer Ward) by Gottfried Benn not only reflect the times in which they were written but, more intriguingly, represent and reveal their authors through differing representations of death. In this paper I will examine these three German literary texts, their eras, their authors, and the art movements contemporary to them, with an eye towards the role that personal expression played in each and the attitudes towards death that they present. Then, in response to each work, I will create a series of images in the tradition of the corresponding art movements, with the
2 intention to not simply illustrate the texts but to engage the literature in a conversation, to answer and interrogate words with pictures which may alternately counter and parallel each other, and give agency to the dead and dying.
3 JOHANNES VON TEPL AND HUMANISM Arguably the first great piece of writing in the Early New High German form, Der Ackermann aus Bhmen (The Plowman from Bohemia) by Johannes von Tepl, a moving dialogue between a widower plowman and Death. Von Tepl seamlessly combines vivid imagery of a visceral appeal within an intellectual and philosophical discourse both concise in his complaints and precise in his poetry, but this is much more than a rhetorical exercise. Der Ackermann is a work reflecting a time of transition, the waning days of the medieval world and the dawn of humanism, the advent of moveable type (c. 1439) and popular access to printed material on the horizon, but it is more than a sign of its times. Above all, it is a deeply personal work by a man contending with the loss of his wife through an understanding of death. It is a work that invites introspection, thus I have entered into a conversation with the text itself through my own original visual art. Before we examine this text, we must learn a little about the author, whose life is so closely tied to it, a man sometimes called von Tepl and sometimes von Saaz, of
4 whom only one painting and few records exist. Although the exact details of his biography are not known, enough facts have been collected through surviving papers and documents to ascertain some telling information about the life of Johannes von Tepl. The exact year of his birth was not recorded, but the date can be narrowed to between the years 1340 and 1360. It is known that he was educated in the grammar school in Tepl (because place names were used as surnames at that time, and this is the earliest one ascribed to him, it will be used here for the purposes of this essay), which is located in the western part of Bohemia in the present day Czech Republic (Maurer 5). Upon leaving Tepl, he attended the University of Prague, completing his studies in about the year 1383 having earned the title of Magister, (master), possibly in law, although his precise area of study is not known for certain. Following that, he moved to Saaz, also located in western Bohemia. This city would give him the alternate name by which he is sometimes referred, Johannes von Saaz (Reinhart 67). While in that city, he worked as a town clerk, in a school as headmaster, and finally for the Archbishop in Saaz as his notary (Maurer 5).
5 It is not known when Johannes von Tepl married, but it was the death of his wife, Margaretha, in 1400 that formed the basis and impetus for his poem, Der Ackermann usually dated to the year 1401. This work is an argument between the accuser, a widower plowman, and Death, the accused. As the poem comes to an end, von Tepl names his own late wife in the plowmans final lament: Mich reuet Margaretha, mein auserweltes weib (Margaret I mourn, the wife of my choice) (Saaz 116-117). Although we do not know how many of his five children (four sons and a daughter) were born of his first wife, the text suggests that there were children at the time of Margarethas death, wan ir mich zu witwer und meine kinder zu weisen so ungenediglich habet gemacht (when unmercifully you made me a widower and my children orphans) (Saaz 40-41). Indeed, it is not unreasonable to assume that they were all born of Margaretha, considering the year. Von Tepl uses his offspring in his argumentation, perhaps as co-defendants, perhaps as evidence of the harm done, but most likely in order to elicit emotion and sympathy: Michel ere het, wann die guten die reinen tochter eugelten mit iren kindern, in reinem neste gefallen. Tot ist die henne, die da auszoch solche hner (Great honor was mine when the lords and ladies looked
6 graciously upon that pure woman and upon her children born in a pure nest. But she is dead, the mother hen who brought up those chicks) (Saaz 28-29). After writing Der Ackermann aus Bhmen although a devout and churchgoing man, von Tepl remained in secular society. He did not go into the clergy or devote himself to his religion as a widower might. Instead, he tended to his family and estates and remarried. After twenty-eight years in Saaz, he was appointed by the Archbishop of Prague to the position of notary public in Prague-Neustadt. He became seriously ill in 1413 and died the following year (Mauer 5). The passing of von Tepl in 1414 was but a small premonition to the transformation that was about to take place throughout Europe. Von Tepl lived at a time just on the cusp of change in innovation, artistic conventions and religious thought. The art of woodcut relief printing would make art widely accessible starting in around 1425. Even more transformative, Johannes Gutenbergs invention of the moveable type printing press in about the year 1439 would permit broad distribution of the printed word. The Renaissance raised the importance of authorship and increased interest in the artist. Although his life ended
7 a century before the Protestant Reformation began in earnest, the town of Tepl, from which von Tepl came and which had given the author his name, would feel its impacts when a popular uprising, by followers of the Martin Luther, took place in the Abby of Tepl in 1525. Especially significant to Der Ackermann though was the influence of humanist thought. Although it is clear from the text that von Tepl still considers God to be the ultimate judge, Der Ackermann is predominantly humanist in nature, which may not be as radical a notion as it at first seems. While humanism may have, in recent times, come to be associated with atheism and agnosticism for its rejection of the supernatural and emphasis on self-determinism, so-called Renaissance humanism (spanning medieval through early modernism), which informed von Tepls writing, did not necessarily oppose religion. Rather, it was more of an intellectual pursuit that sought a revival of interest in classical texts and was thought by its subscribers to supplement, rather than invalidate, Christianity. Von Tepl demonstrates both his rhetorical skill and his knowledge of classical literature throughout Der Ackermann especially in Deaths learned and logical arguments. In a single chapter, he references, among others, Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Avicenna,
8 Ovids Pyramus and Thisbe and Homers Iliad (Saaz 98-99). The Plowman, however, is not without his wits, for, he counters with another philosophical reference: So sprichet Plato und ander weissagen, das in allen sachen eines zertttung des andern berung sei und wie alle sache auf urkunde sein gebauret und wie des himmels lauf, aller planeten und der erden von einem in das ander verwandelt werde und ewig sei. (Plato and other philosophers say that the destruction of one thing is the birth of another, that all things are built upon creation, and that the course of heavens, of all planets and of the world is a transformation of one into another and is eternal.) (Saaz 102-103) The foundation of humanist thought lies in the idea of a man-centered, rather than a God-centered, universe. Irmgard Wagner writes that it is the position of Ploughman, his appeal to individualism, that is one of the characteristics of Renaissance thought (4). Although there was diversity among humanists, fundamental to them was an interest in classical science, philosophy, art and poetry. Humanists held that truth is found by those who seek it, not those who wait for revelation, and that belief requires proof. In his argumentation, von Tepl brings the teachings of classical writers and philosophers into
9 evidence for Death, and the plowman is the seeker of truth, countering Deaths universal laws by insisting on the rights of the Individual: on his own personal right to grieve, to enjoy, to love that exceeds average emotions (Wagner 3). It was such an act of humanist selfdeterminism in which von Tepl wrote Der Ackermann There is no question that von Tepl himself was not a farmer, so his choice of protagonist is a curious one. Indeed, there is nothing within the text itself, save the plowmans own self-designation, to suggest that he works the land: Ich bin genant ein ackerman, von vogelwat ist mein pflug, und wone in Behemer lande. (I am called a plowman. My plow is the pen, and I live in bohemia) (Saaz 14-15). This can be read in no way other than metaphorically. There are several possibilities as to why he made this decision. First, there is the question of audience. By using terms that ordinary people could understand, he may have felt that his message would have broader appeal and, indeed, judging by the number of printings, Der Ackermann was a popular work in the century following its first publication. Still, considering the complexity of the rhetoric, it is not likely that this was prose intended for
10 simple countrymen, so we must consider external influence. Incidentally, a poem by the English writer entitled Piers Plowman or The Vision Concerning Piers the Plowman was in wide circulation in western Bohemia during the years prior to the writing of Der Ackermann (Tepl, Death 6). Save the name, however, this allegorical work has nothing in common with von Tepls, and so, whatever inspiration that title may have sparked, the earlier work could not have influenced the content of the latter. Considering the humanist interest in rhetoric, Der Ackermann could be seen as an exercise in the same or even an exploration of the possibilities for prose in the New High German form, as Reinhold Schneider describes it, it was an expression of the authors attitude to the written word and of his estimate of his work thus he found a new way of writing (Schneider 1). Indeed, these may be the explanations that von Tepl himself would give for having written it. The greater interpretation, however, the one that encompasses the whole, is that this is a work of personal expression. The use of his own wife as subject matter belies invested emotion in his contemplation of mortality. Here, the plowman metaphor speaks to one toiling, tilling for truth, and is evocative of the life-cycle, the farmer being the one who tends to the seasons. Far from intellectual
11 detachment, the prose maintains emotional expressiveness throughout; Von Tepl is able to project his grief through his writing. He does not suppress his pain. (Schneider 2) Although most critics align von Tepl with the character of the plowman, the most obvious reason for doing so being the events of his life, let us not forget that he penned both sides of this argument and that the ultimate victory of Deaths rationality is also that of von Tepl. In a way, one could say that his rational and emotional sides were in conflict over the death of his wife and that they were reunited though the writing of this poem. If God is a force that encompasses both life and death, then his is also the position of von Tepl. In a sense, one could say that the character most representative of von Tepl in the poem is God, the judge, himself, and like von Tepls own mind, God is made up of conflicting forces (Schneider 5). The attitudes towards death that von Tepl puts forth in Der Ackermann is presented in terms of oppositions, the synthesis of which is a paradoxical necessity. The overriding theme in the bout between Death and the plowman is that of passionate man versus rational Death. If von Tepl is expressing inner duality, the stubborn,
12 passionate simpleton opposes the cool sophistication of Death. Man, it is argued by man himself, is emotional by his very nature: Unmenschlich tet ich, wo ich solch lbelich Gotes gabe, die niemand dann Got allein geben mag, nicht beweinte. (I would not be human if I did not weep for so precious, so godly a gift which none but God can give) (Saaz 24-25). In the face of such passion, Death counsels for restraint: Bistu aber tobend, wtend, twalmig oder anderswie one sinne, so verseuch, enthalt und bis nicht zu snelle, so swerlich zu fluchen, den worten das du nicht bekmmert weirdest mit afterreue. (If you are in a fury, a rage, a trance, or otherwise out of your senses, then wait, hold back, do not be overhasty in wild cursing, lest you be afterward cast down by remorse.) (Saaz 14-15) Death is not depicted as being unreasonable, for his rationality is indisputable and even tinged with sympathy at times, but he is immovable. His indiscriminateness is not shown to be the product of chaos but of fairness: Wir rechte wegen, rechte richten und rechte faren in der werlte wir tun als die sunne, die scheinet ber gute und bse: wir nemen gute und bse in unsern gewalt. (We appraise rightly, judge rightly and
13 proceed rightly in the world we do as the sun does which shines upon the good and the wicked. The good and the wicked we take into our power.)(Saaz 22-23) At first, the plowman sees Death as aller leute feind (enemy of all mankind)(Saaz 30-31), but enemy and opposite are not the same thing opposites create each other. Through this process of dialectics, he reaches the conclusion that death is necessary for life. The world could not exist (Schneider 5) had death not won the debate. As the two positions come together, Death becomes less of an opponent and more of a consoler. Even as the fictional plowman at first resists this understanding and gains the sympathies of the reader through the poignancy of his expressions of grief, he allows us to understand the incontrovertible truth, as unpleasant as its cool delivery may seem, of his opponents position. Thus, von Tepl found at the bier of his beloved the way to God (Schneider 6). In order for this conversation to take place, Death must become personified, but even as he is at once calling himself the scythed grim reaper, he is understood to be, above all, a force, the embodiment of a power, of a universal law (Schneider 4). Death is a force of nature:
14 Als wenig du kanst der sunnen ir licht, dem mone seine kelte, dem feur sein hitze oder dem wasser sein nesse benemen, als wenig kanstu uns unserer macht berauben! (You can as little deprive us of our power as you can take from the sun its light, from the moon its cold, from fire its heat of from water its wetness.) (Saaz 44-45) From the outset, it seems that Death has a higher status than the plowman, for, while the plowman addresses him formally, Death is informal with the plowman, calls him, son, (Saaz 13, Reinhart 68) and chides him as if he was a child in mid-tantrum. In these instances, what at other times seemed to be a formal courtroom debate becomes somewhat more intimate. Indeed, towards the end, the argument is more conversational, as if it had been a quarrel between two brothers, the more level-headed becoming the advisor to his hot-tempered little brother. A turning point in the confrontation comes when the plowman answers Deaths superiority with, so ratet und underweiset mich (then advise me and teach me) (Saaz 64-66). Thus, God could be parent to them both, putting them on more equal footing than initially perceived. Got mein und eur
15 gewaltig ist. (God has power over me and you) (Saaz 3233). If this discourse is instead to be read as a court case and the plowman the plaintiff against whom, as he repeatedly claims, a wrong has been committed, then Death is the defendant who must demonstrate his innocence. His composure is that of a lawyer or a level-headed advisor, a believer in the law, one with faith in the process. In his defense, he first argues that death is the natural order of the universe and has always been: La ab! Die lebendigen mit den lebendigen, die toten mit den toten, als unz her ist gewesen. (Desist! Let the living belong to the living, the dead to the dead, as it has been hitherto)(Saaz 26-27). Then, perhaps in a more advisory role, he offers that the plowman could take a second wife (advice which von Tepl did indeed follow), that there are plenty of fish in the sea: Du findest noch vil frauen auf erden, der dir eine zu der e warden mag [oder] noch ein frum weib geziehen und gemachen. (You will find in the world many another woman to marry [or] make another virtuous wife) (Saaz 38-40). But Deaths advice takes a more cynical tone when he points out that all people will eventually fall into vice or sickness and tells the plowman that he should be grateful to have lost his wife in the prime of
16 her life, beautiful and unspoiled by time: Bei frlicher jugend mit ungekrenkten eren haben wir sie in unser genade empfangen. (We have received her into our mercy in the gaiety of youth with her honor inviolate) (Saaz 42-43). As a closing argument, the final synthesis is repeated: without love there is no loss. In a sense, Death is blaming the plaintiff for his own suffering: Hettestu dich vor liebes berhaben, so werestu nu leides vertragen. (If you had abstained from love before, you would now be free from sorrow) (Saaz 38-39). But man is a passionate creature who cannot forgo love and attachment, despite the fact that it will cause suffering. Reinhold Schneider points out that the plowman demands compensation (4) from Death for his loss, and although this is logical in the sense of a man in court seeking damages, it is out of step with current western values which distinguish people from property. Entenigt habt ir mich aller wnnen, beraubet lieber lebtage, entspenet micheler eren (You have despoiled me of all delight, robbed me of the dear days of my life, taken great honor from me) (Saaz 28-29), the plowman accuses as he laments. Later, he seems to be asking not for the return of his wife, but for some equivalent: Nach untat wellet ir niemand genug tun, niemand wellet ir ergetzen (You
17 will give nobody satisfaction for your ill-doing, will make no compensation) (Saaz 40-42). Upon final evaluation, it is my belief that the plowman means no disrespect to his wife, for he speaks of her only in the most reverent terms and marriage as the very apex of human experience, but, within the context of these court-like proceedings, her role is that of an asset, her death a damage to the plaintiff. Still, if I were to enter into this conversation as a third party, my case would be against the court proceedings themselves, wherein Margaretha is seen as property. I feel that she is voiceless, that although it is about her, she has no agency within the text. My project visually interprets a portion of this text as if from this third point of view. Each illustration bears some reference to the imagery used by Tepl, but with a radically different meaning that serves as counterpoint to the plowman. If the plaintiffs plough is the pen, mine is the chisel. If his field is the page, mine is the plank. The practice of relief printing from woodblocks traveled from Asia to Germany by 1425. In this process, a design is either transferred or directly drawn onto the surface of a hardwood plank and areas around the lines are carved away.
18 An impression is made by rolling ink over the raised surface, laying a sheet of paper over it, and rubbing the back of the paper. Due to the relative inexpensiveness of the materials, this innovation made art available to people of more modest means (Parshall 2). Stylistically speaking, these images are linear and relatively uniform, void of chiaroscuro shading, and have more attention paid to drapery than to the faces of the often centrally-placed figures. The weight of the lines do not vary greatly and empty spaces are often filled with design for the practical reason that a more uniform surface takes ink and paper more easily. I have chosen to illustrate the passage in which the word plowman first appears. In this, the third chapter (Saaz 14-17), the plowman introduces himself and his complaint, and, most importantly, describes his loss, the focus of my work, Margaretha: Ich bins genant ein ackerman, von vogelwat ist mein pflug, und wone in Behemer lande. Erhessig, widerwertig und widerstrebend sol ich euch immer wesen, wan ir habt mir den zwelften buchstaben, meiner freuden hort, aus dem alphabet gar freissamlich enzcket.
19 (I am called a plowman. My plow is the pen, and I live in Bohemia. I shall always hate you, abhor you and resist you, for you have most cruelly ripped out the twelfth letter of my alphabet, the treasure house of my joys.) (Saaz 14-15) In my illustration to this passage (see pg. 26), I take von Tepls most evocative image, that of the plowman, and see it from the angle of the fields themselves. His use of an agrarian metaphor is not limited to this instance, indeed he later describes his wife as meinen wnnereicher anger (my field of delight). (Saaz 46-47) Within the confines of the art tradition, I felt that this was the extent to which I could integrate the figure into the landscape. Ir habt meiner wnnen lichte sumerblumen mir aus meines herzen anger jemerlichen ausgereutet; (You have sadly uprooted from my hearts meadow the bright summer flower of my delight; (Saaz 14-15) In my somewhat didactic rendering of this metaphor (see pg. 27), Margaretha has pulled up a flowering vine, roots and all. Yet it is significant for my purposes that she, and not Death, is responsible for this action. ir habt mir meiner selden haft, mein auserwelte turkeltauben arglistiglichen entfremdet;
20 (you have craftily lured away the stay of my happiness, my chosen turtle dove;) The idea that Margaretha was lured away by death robs her of her own free will. My image (see pg. 28) shows a winged Margaretha flying freely, not property, not tethered, and with wit and will of her own. ir habt unwiderbringlichen raub an mir getan! Weget es selber, ob ich icht billich zrne, wte und klage: von euch bin ich freudenreiches wesens beraubet, tegelicher gutter lebetage enterbet und aller wnnebringender rente geeuert. (you have committed a robbery against me which can never be made good. Bethink yourself whether I have not just grounds for my anger, rage and complaint. It is through you that I am bereft of joyful existence, that, day in day out, I am dispossessed of the good life and despoiled of all the revenues of bliss.) (Saaz 14-17) My image of Margaretha on horseback (see pg. 29) ever so subtly invokes the Rape of Europa. Often depicted in art, this is a scene from Greek mythology in which the Phoenician noblewoman, Europa, is abducted by the god Zeus who wears, at the time, the form of a white bull. By replacing the uncontrollable, passionate bull with a
21 docile, reined horse and Margaretha serene and fully composed, I interrogate the idea that she, or any woman, is something to be stolen. Frut und fro was ich vormals zu aller stund; kurz und lustsam war mir alle weile tag und nacht, in gleicher mae freudenreich, geudenreich sie beide; ein jegliches jar was mir ein genadenreiches jar. Nu wirt zu mir gesprochen: schab ab! (Once I was glad and gay at all times; day and night were fleet and pleasing, rich in joy and rich in gladness. For me every year was a year of grace. Now the command is: have done!) (Saaz 16-17) The decorous sun and moon corner pieces in this image (see pg. 30) can be seen as literal illustrations of von Tepls day and night, but the circular calendar behind Margaretha, of the type often used in illuminated manuscripts, has been intentionally left blank to represent the eternal nature of death as von Tepl perceives it. Bei trbem getranke, auf drrem aste, betrbet, sware und zeherend beleibe ich und heule one underla! (I am left on a withered branch, I drink the turbid water of sorrow and despair, and I weep and lament without cease.) (Saaz 16-17)
22 Here, I have drawn heavily upon medieval-renaissance era imagery of Saint Christopher carrying the Christ Child (see pg. 31). The legend depicted in those woodcuts and paintings is of a man carrying a child that is impossibly heavy for its size across a river (Reinhart 549). The child is later revealed to be the baby Jesus and the man is sainted Christopher (bearer of Christ) (Parshall 5). This legend led to Saint Christopher becoming the patron saint of travelers, an analogy, as I interpret it here, for death. I have replaced the Saint with Margaretha in a scene of agitated water and blowing wind, a counterpoint to von Tepls mood of sinking despair, and she gaily proceeding unburdened. Absent are the riverbanks usually present in the common rendering of Saint Christopher in order to evoke the same endlessness that von Tepl describes, though in this new context. Also treibet mich der wind, ich swimme dahin durch des wilden meres flut, die tunnen haben berhand genomen, mein anker haftet ninder. Hierumb ich one ende schreien wil: Ir Tod, euch sei verfluchet! (Thus the wind drives me; I am adrift in wild seas, their waves overwhelm me; nowhere does my anchor hold. Therefore I will cry without end: Death, be accursed!) (Saaz 16-17)
23 It is my habit to make my final image (see pg. 32) a departure from the others. This is similar, stylistically speaking, to the organization of Der Ackermann aus Bhmen where a rhythmic to-and-fro is resolved by the introduction of God. For the first time, I have included another human figure in the composition and, for the first time, directly addressed the issue of human mortality. Here, the image of Margaretha in the foreground offers a blessing, counteracting the plowmans curse, but the subject of the blessing is left vague, whether as an absolution for Death, for the soul of the dead Margaretha, as a consolation for her grieving husband, or, perhaps, for the viewer. In parting, my final question is, if there is Death as a personified force, why not Life? Centuries later, Freud would say that Eros is the embodied opposite of Death (Thanatos), but the drive for procreation is not the same thing as the Christian concept of the Death figure in von Tepls time. Through this discourse, the answer to the question became clear, that the embodiment of the opposing force is living man itself. In a way, it could be said that by presenting Margaretha as a healthy, living woman, I am not only challenging Death but providing the consolation to his challenger.
24 In my own art, I can only do as von Tepl did with his characters when he put his own thoughts and feelings into their mouths. Unable to escape my own subjectivity, I put myself into the figure of Margaretha. I believe that by rendering my illustrations in the style of that transformative time I am, as did von Tepl, combining the scholarly with the personally expressive. Von Tepls intellectual interests and his position in the continuum of European cultural development certainly played a role in his writing, but I would argue that this piece is more personal than this and that his biography shaped this work, its tone, and, most importantly, the attitudes towards death expressed. Although it is no doubt informed by his times, Der Ackermann is mostly the work of a man employing his intellectual and artistic faculties to work through his grief. His ability to express his vulnerability and come to a greater understanding of mortality is not only a personal triumph but one that allowed him to create a work worthy of posterity.
25 DER ACKERMANN AUS BHMEN CHAPTER 3 BY JOHANNES VON TEPL ORIGINAL RELIEF PRINTS BY LIDIA CARA
26 Ich bins genant ein ackerman, von vogelwat ist mein pflug, und wone in Behemer lande. Erhessig, widerwertig und widerstrebend sol ich euch immer wesen, wan ir habt mir den zwelften buchstaben, meiner freuden hort, aus dem alphabet gar freissamlich enzcket. (I am called a plowman. My plow is the pen, and I live in Bohemia. I shall always hate you, abhor you and resist you, for you have most cruelly ripped out the twelfth letter of my alphabet, the treasure house of my joys.)
27 Ir habt meiner wnnen lichte sumerblumen mir aus meines herzen anger jemerlichen ausgereutet; (You have sadly uprooted from my hearts meadow the bright summer flower of my delight;
28 ir habt mir meiner selden haft, mein auserwelte turkeltauben arglistiglichen entfremdet; (you have craftily lured away the stay of my happiness, my chosen turtle dove;)
29 ir habt unwiderbringlichen raub an mir getan! Weget es selber, ob ich icht billich zrne, wte und klage: von euch bin ich freudenreiches wesens beraubet, tegelicher gutter lebetage enterbet und aller wnnebringender rente geeuert. (you have committed a robbery against me which can never be made good. Bethink yourself whether I have not just grounds for my anger, rage and complaint. It is through you that I am bereft of joyful existence, that, day in day out, I am dispossessed of the good life and despoiled of all the revenues of bliss.)
30 Frut und fro was ich vormals zu aller stund; kurz und lustsam war mir alle weile tag und nacht, in gleicher mae freudenreich, geudenreich sie beide; ein jegliches jar was mir ein genadenreiches jar. Nu wirt zu mir gesprochen: schab ab! (Once I was glad and gay at all times; day and night were fleet and pleasing, rich in joy and rich in gladness. For me every year was a year of grace. Now the command is: have done!)
31 Bei trbem getranke, auf drrem aste, betrbet, sware und zeherend beleibe ich und heule one underla! (I am left on a withered branch, I drink the turbid water of sorrow and despair, and I weep and lament without cease.)
32 Also treibet mich der wind, ich swimme dahin durch des wilden meres flut, die tunnen haben berhand genomen, mein anker haftet ninder. Hierumb ich one ende schreien wil: Ir Tod, euch sei verfluchet! (Thus the wind drives me; I am adrift in wild seas, their waves overwhelm me; nowhere does my anchor hold. Therefore I will cry without end: Death, be accursed!)
33 HEINRICH HEINE AND ROMANTICISM If one of von Tepls greatest strengths lies in his emotive abilities, in that he does not suppress his pain (Schneider 2), the Romantics made this practice central to their artistic philosophy. In trying to define the movement, Ludwig Tieck wrote: That word romantic has caused considerable mischief. It has always annoyed me to hear people talk of romantic poetry as if that were a special kind of poetry. People are trying to put it in contrast with classical poetry and so to establish a juxtaposition. But poetry is first and foremost poetry, it will have to be that, always and everywhere, whether we call it classical or romantic. (Schrade 7) In fact, German Romanticism can be divided into two parts: the Early German Romantics looked with imagined nostalgia to the Middle Ages and sought to unify the branches of learning, art, and spirituality. Later German Romanticism was categorized by works which contrasted objective reality with the otherworldly visions of the artist. Heinrich Heine (17971856) was a writer of this
34 later period. Although he is still considered to be a Romantic author, he was already looking back critically on German Romanticism and the Age of Goethe, (mid-eighteenth century to Goethes death in 1832). In his 1833 essay, The Romantic School Heine describes two opposing views in Romantic writing: progressive Enlightenment and regressive spiritualism that looked back to the Middle Ages. Comparing Heines views to those of von Tepls at the turn of the fifteenth century both similarities and differences emerge. Like von Tepl, Heine was a bit of an outlier for his time and progressive in an era of change. He was involved in artistic movements as well as being politically active, and his influence was widespread. Karl Marx knew him personally and was influenced by Heines philosophies. Wagner used themes from Heines writing in The Flying Dutchman and Tannhuser Nietzsche praised him, and Freud, who was generally indifferent to Romanticism, commented on Heines psychological insight and wit (Holub VII). In his political writings, Heine opposed nationalism and advocated for human rights: Heine defends the rights of people to live in peace and in the absence of material want (Holub XIII). In 1825, Heine converted from Judaism to Lutheranism for sociopolitical reasons, as
35 opportunities in business and education would have otherwise been limited for him. Indeed, he was rewarded for his ambition, and is still well known for his early poetry, but, after age 30, he entered into a new phase with his work which became increasingly sensitive and melancholic. In the same year that the Revolution of 1848 broke out, Heine, living in Paris at the time, took to his deathbed. There he would lie for the next eight years. Although he remained interested in politics until the end of his life, neither his politics, his religion, nor his art criticism play a key role in his late poem Morphine. Rather, it is a much more personal work. The poems he wrote at the end of his life are the most personal, perhaps, because he had less to lose or gain, less ambition. In this poem, the apolitical, irreligious Morphine, he speaks in the first person from his sickbed and asks for death. Having suffered bouts of temporary paralysis for years, Heine became unable to walk in 1848 and remained bedridden for the last eight years of his life (Holub XIII). It is unclear what illness plagued him, but it was most likely a venereal disease of the spinal cord, although possibly intermittent porphyria, a congenital disease which
36 causes neurological disorders leading to other organ failures. Whatever the condition, it was extremely painful and, at its worst, he sometimes had to hold his paralyzed eyelids open by hand so that he could read. He took substantial doses of opiates (Sammons, Heine 296) and although they at times dulled his thoughts, he remained intellectually sharp and creatively potent until the end of his life. In a letter to his brother Max, Heine described his medicated state as a desolate narcosis (Sammons, Heine 296). He composed poems during sleepless nights. His wife Mathilde tended to him fiercely. His spine was incised so that morphine could be dripped into it. Writing to Max, he would complain of physical decay: My lips are lamed like my feet, my eating tools are lamed as well as my excretory organs. I can neither chew nor crap; I am fed like a bird. This non-life is not to be borne (Sammons, Heine 296). Morphine, however, does not depict this kind of bodily decay, only melancholic nihilism, far more poetic, ethereal, and disembodied. Although his Death figure has a form and is personified, it is much more indistinct than von Tepls. While this poem, like Der Ackermann also centers around two figures, they are neither cast in terms of opposition nor necessity, as were von Tepls.
37 If Death and the plowman seemed like quarreling brothers, the two figures at the center of Heines poem, Morphine, truly are twins. Here, as did von Tepl, Heine invokes the ancient Greeks in the forms of the gods Thanatos (Death) and Hypnos (Sleep), twins born of mother Nyx (Night) and father Erebos (Darkness). These brothers are not in conflict, as were von Tepls, where life opposed Death. Thanatos and Hypnos are not facing each other, but standing side by side. They reside on the same side of the greater polarities: day and night, life and death, wakefulness and sleep. In this case, the father is not the all-encompassing God, but Darkness, another force created by opposition. For Heine, death is not a necessity as it was for von Tepl. When Heine summons death, it is for relief from the sickness that is life and from the suffering of the body. To Max, he wrote: To be sure I wish myself death, and it would certainly be a blessing to me (Sammons, Heine 296). Neither is death an impartial power nor universal law: the deities in Morphine take interest in human affairs.Unlike von Tepl, whose interest in mortality was incited by the tragic loss of his wife, Heines preoccupation with death began long before his illness. He wrote The very worst illness is life and Only the sick
38 human being is a human being. (Sammons, Heine 297) He also questioned, in his essay The Romantic School whether art originates in ailment. In Morphine, Heine is the sick man in bed, but he is also the dreamer and thus the creator. In Atta Troll his satirical epic from 1843, he defines imagination as the combination of dream and death and madness (Sammons, Heine 297). In this way, he associates the artist with death, an idea that runs counter to his contemporary Freuds concept of the destructive death drive versus the creative Eros. More than a mere sign of its times, Morphine is ultimately a poem of an extremely personal nature. This is evidenced by the fact that it was not published until after Heines death. It was originally intended to be a part of his last published poetry collection, Romanzero from 1851, which relates history to the individual life in three sections: Historien (Histories), Lamentationen (Lamentations), and Hebrische Melodien (Hebrew Melodies). However, Heine abruptly demanded its removal (Sammons, Elusive 400) from the collection in a letter to his publisher, Campe, that same year. Although Heine was not shy about publishing works of a morbid nature, this one was too intimately connected to him. One concern that he may have had could have been for his image. His condition
39 was fairly well publicized, and Heine might not have wanted the public to infer too much about his physically and psychologically wretched state. Most critically, however, is the proximity of the speaker in the poem to Heine: Here the vision of the brothers Sleep and Death is not located in poetic space but is perceived by the poet on his own sickbed (Sammons, Elusive 400). If von Tepl found God when he questioned Death, Heine found himself. In the end of life, the poetic persona has become closely integrated with the poet himself. It is at the edge of the grave that we hear Heines voice the most clearly (Sammons, Elusive 399). In working from fifteenth-century art, I had to draw from a relatively anonymous pool of artist-craftsmen whose work remained largely undifferentiated in style. By the nineteenth century, however, the cult of the artist was well established and so I was able to focus on individual artists as sources of inspiration for my own art. In the case of Der Ackermann I used a form, woodcut, which developed after its writing and in response to the changes that the text helped to usher in. In this case, I did the opposite, choosing to style my artworks after the artists of the earlier German Romanticism (and beg Heines
40 forgiveness for illustrating his words in a style that he truly abhorred), against whom Heine defined himself but were nonetheless similarly interested in artistic originality. The most iconic artistic figure of the Romantic era, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) emphasized the degree to which the hand of the artist had become important when he wrote: Art teachers! beware of forcing your rules and your instructions on everyone, for in that way you might easily destroy the temple of individuality without which man cannot achieve greatness!... Your rules may be good, but they do not fit everyone only the laws of God are valid for all. (Schrade 31-32) The other artist whom I specifically reference in my work, Phillip Otto Runge (1777-1810), was an influential artist during the early years of German Romanticism. A transitional figure, he ultimately rejected his neoclassical training, although it never stopped informing his work. He died prematurely of tuberculosis, leaving writings on his philosophies of art that were far ahead of their time. In Runges work, we see some of the same symbolic, decorative, systematic compositions as in the woodcuts of
41 the fifteenth century, and yet his are individual among their contemporaries as that kind of formulaic approach had long fallen out of fashion in favor of the kind of individualism advocated by von Tepl. Runge may have been exactly the sort of backward-looking Romantic painter that Heine criticized so bitterly, his use of classical imagery and belief that art was a spiritual pursuit would place him in that category. For his own part, Runge, along with Friedrich, rejected the views of the conservative Nazarene movement, a group of artists that formed in 1809 under the shared belief that artistic truths must come from religious truths and wanted to lead art back from its present excess to the road of truth. (Schrade 41) In reaction, sharing Friedrichs views that art and religion may be connected but not combined, Runge wrote, Religion is not art; religion is Gods highest gift, but art can glorify it and bring it closer to our understanding. (Schrade 41) This is a position reminiscent of von Tepls views on humanism, which he also saw as a practice complementary to Christianity. The difficulty that I encountered in illustrating this work in the same way as I did Der Ackermann is that here the dying person is also the speaker in the poem. For this
42 reason, I had to find another way to give agency to dying and did so in the form of landscape. Friedrich wrote that the painter should not just paint what he sees in front of him but also what he sees within himself (Finke 19). Thus, his landscapes become psychological self-portraits, similar to Heines poetic revealing. Graves and ruins occupy the central position in a great number of Friedrichs landscape compositions. Ulrich Finke writes, The Gothic ruin is a symbol of decay. The work of man is in the process of returning to nature and of re-uniting with the universe and that Friedrichs fondness for the ruin-motif may be explained by his tendency towards melancholy, solitude, and quiet (25). So, in these psychological landscapes, I give the melancholy loners, Heine and Friedrich, the company of Death and Sleep, Thanatos and his brother Hypnos, in the forms of the whimsical babies from Runges classically-inspired work. The drawings are executed in the ink-and-watercolor technique employed by both artists for sketches and preparatory drawings. Gro ist die hnlichkeit der beiden schnen Jnglingsgestalten, ob der eine gleich Viel blsser als der andre, auch viel strenger,
43 (Great is the similarity between These two fair figures, although one appears Much paler than the other, far more calm;) (Heine, Poems 273) The cool impartiality of von Tepls Death is echoed here in Heines description of a pale, austere figure. In this drawing (see pg. 49), I have put my Thanatos and his brother before Friedrichs closed cemetery gate. As yet, Death is not available, however much one might still wish to look behind the gates slats. Fast mcht ich sagen viel vornehmer aussieht Als jener andre, welcher mich vertraulich In seine Arme schlo Wie lieblich sanft War dann sein Lcheln und sein Blick wie selig! (Fairer and nobler even, I might say, Than his companion, in whose arms I lay so warmly. How divine and soft Were all his smiles, and what a look was his!) (Heine, Poems 273) Greatly overpowered by Friedrichs Eldena ruins, my depictions of Death and Sleep (see pg. 50) borrow from Heines imagery of lovers and combine with Runges somewhat eroticized children to show the pair inextricably
44 intertwined and yet subordinate to the landscape of the mind. Dann mocht es wohl geschehn, da seines Hauptes Mohnblumenkranz auch meine Stirn berhrte (It must have been the poppy-wreath he wore About his brows that touched my throbbing head) (Heine, Poems 273) The illustration accompanying this piece of the poem (see pg. 51) shows Sleep alone and in silhouette, reaching, from atop a peak, into the upper atmosphere of Friedrichs Riesengebirge landscape as it represents the mind, shrouded in mist. Und seltsam duftend allen Schmerz verscheuchte Aus meiner Seel Doch solche Linderung, (And with its magic perfume soothed all pain And sorrow in my soul... But such sweet balm (Heine, Poems 273) The poetic imagery of comforting lends itself to this pastoral scene (see pg. 52), based again on Friedrichs renderings of Eldena. Introducing for the first time another living being, the sheep here adds an interactive element to the landscape, as if the mind is now responding in a more physical way to the comfort offered. Sie dauert kurze Zeit; genesen gnzlich
45 Kann ich nur dann, wenn seine Fackel senkt Der andre Bruder, der so ernst und bleich. (Lasts but a little while; I can be cured Completely only when the other one, The grave and paler brother, drops his torch.) (Heine, Poems 273) This image (see pg. 53) shows Death alone before another of Friedrichs cemetery gates. This gate, however, is open, and the lone figure mournful. Heines poem has taken a turn and he now wants to do more than just peer through the slats in a gate, however I have chosen to depict a Death who is reluctant to accept such a request and mourns the passing of anybody through his gate. Gut ist der Schlaf, der Tod ist besser freilich (For Sleep is good, but Death is better still -) (Heine, Poems 273) In the cemetery before Friedrichs abbey, one tiny figure lies prostrate and the other gestures towards him (see pg. 54), but which is Death and which is Sleep? The interpretation may well depend on the viewers feelings about the accompanying lines of Heines poem. Das beste wre, nie geboren sein. (The best is never to be born at all.) (Heine, Poems 273)
46 Finally, the sequence ends with a twist (see pg. 55). The figures, so adult in their roles as gods, become children again in their mothers arms. The ruins so prominent in the earlier images are replaced by her. Like God in Der Ackermann a greater figure, mother Night, comes to rule, but she twists the meaning of that last line, even as it twists the meaning of the poem, for woman is the bringer of life, even as this one is the mother of Death. One remaining question about this poem rests upon the title figure, for it seems unlikely that Heine would have written an ode to his medication. In fact, Heine used the image of the poppy wreath some years before he was obligated to take opiates (Sammons, Elusive 400). Morpheus is the god of dreams, son of Hypnos. The only reference to him within the text itself is the Mohnblumenkranz (poppy-wreath), which also refers to the drug. However, if it is the poems speaker who is under this charm, and this so personal a poem, is Heine the dreamer, dreaming of death? Heine believed that death is closest to the artist, the creative. In this case, it may seem that he would be in agreement with von Tepl, that death is necessary for creation, but Heines is a far more unbalanced view. For
47 him, creativity is madness. The idea that the artist is both mad and shares a kinship with death is a radical departure from von Tepls humanism which put logic and poetry in the same category.
48 MORPHINE BY HEINRICH HEINE ORIGINAL DRAWINGS BY LIDIA CARA
49 Gro ist die hnlichkeit der beiden schnen Jnglingsgestalten, ob der eine gleich Viel blsser als der andre, auch viel strenger, (Great is the similarity between These two fair figures, although one appears Much paler than the other, far more calm;)
50 Fast mcht ich sagen viel vornehmer aussieht Als jener andre, welcher mich vertraulich In seine Arme schlo Wie lieblich sanft War dann sein Lcheln und sein Blick wie selig! (Fairer and nobler even, I might say, Than his companion, in whose arms I lay so warmly. How divine and soft Were all his smiles, and what a look was his!)
51 Dann mocht es wohl geschehn, da seines Hauptes Mohnblumenkranz auch meine Stirn berhrte (It must have been the poppy-wreath he wore About his brows that touched my throbbing head)
52 Und seltsam duftend allen Schmerz verscheuchte Aus meiner Seel Doch solche Linderung, (And with its magic perfume soothed all pain And sorrow in my soul... But such sweet balm)
53 Sie dauert kurze Zeit; genesen gnzlich Kann ich nur dann, wenn seine Fackel senkt Der andre Bruder, der so ernst und bleich. (Lasts but a little while; I can be cured Completely only when the other one, The grave and paler brother, drops his torch.)
54 Gut ist der Schlaf, der Tod ist besser freilich (For Sleep is good, but Death is better still -)
55 Das beste wre, nie geboren sein. (The best is never to be born at all.)
56 GOTTFRIED BENN AND EXPRESSIONISM In the case that von Tepl presents for Death in Der Ackermann the fragility of the temporal body is described in gruesome detail: Ein mensche wirt in snden empfangen, mit unreinem, ungenantem unflat in mterlichem leibe generet, nacket geboren und ist ein besmireter binstock, ein ganser unlust, ein kotfa, ein wurmspeise, ein stankhaus, ein unlustiger splzuber, ein faules as, ein schimelkaste, ein bodenloser sack, ein locherte tasche, ein blasebalk, ein geitiger slund, ein stinkender leimtigel, ein belriechender harmkrug ein belsmekkender eimer, ein betriegender trockenscheim, ein leimen raubhaus, ein unsetig leschtrog und ein gemalte begrebn. (A man is conceived in sin, nourished in his mothers body on unclean, indescribable filth, and born naked; he is a smeary bee-hive, a piece of loathsomeness, a barrel of much, food for worms, a privy, a disgusting slop-pail, a rotting carcass, a moldy box, a bottomless bag, a torn placket, a bellows, a greedy gullet, a stinking glue-pot, an evil-smelling piss
57 pot, a malodorous bucket, a deceitful puppet, a den of clay, an insatiable quenching tub, and a whited sepulcher. Let him hear who will: every normally made human being has nine holes in his body and out of them comes loathsome and unclean filth than which nothing can be more foul.) (Saaz 76-79) Surely, Gottfried Benn (1886-1956) would have agreed. A consummate loner with an eager interest in learning, the young Benn was raised in present-day Brandenburg and received a complete education, ultimately studying military medicine at the Kaiser Wilhelm Academy (Becker xxi-xxii). Benn published his first collection of expressionist poetry, Morgue und andere Gedichte (Morgue and Other Poems), in 1912. Then, in 1914, he enlisted and served as the doctor to an army brothel. Following the First World War, he went into practice as a doctor of skin and venereal diseases. Although he continued to write and became a most influential author, his reputation was tarnished by fleeting fascist sympathies. While these factors may beg to explain the grotesque and arguably misogynistic descriptions of female cancer patients in his early Mann und Frau gehn durch die Krebsbaracke (Man and Woman Go through the Cancer Ward), it was published as a part of that first collection, Morgue before he had had such
58 potentially formative experiences. One can only speculate that both his writing and his life were steered by the same innate disturbance. Goethe deemed the classical healthy and the romantic sick (Schrade 7). This would also be the opinions held of Expressionism by its predecessors. Gottfried Benns poetry was on the forefront of the shocking and raw work for which the expressionists are known. In his lifetime, Benns would come under censure by the Third Reich for being degenerate (Cuomo 100). Mann und Frau gehn durch die Krebsbarackem published in his first collection, Morgue was a prime example of this shocking material. Benns Morgue presents a dark view of the human body in states of physical decay and confronts, if ambivalently, issues of mortality. In this poem, a man gives a woman a tour of a womens cancer ward, describing in the callous terminology of a medical professional the state of the patients there. Although the poem begins by cueing, The Mann: as if in a theatrical script, no dialogue follows and the woman mentioned in the title is never given agency. It was easy for me, then, as a reader to imagine that he was speaking to me. Instead of presenting the women as Benn described them, however, I chose to give them back their former beauty, meeting the viewers gaze as if to
59 give them the voice that Benn did not, with the urgency and immediacy of the German expressionist style. In Der Ackermann von Tepl also addresses the inevitable decay of the body when Death argues: Alle irdische creatre, wie knstig, wie listig, wie stark sie sein, wie lange sie sich enthalten, wie lange sie es treiben, mssen zu nichte werden und verfallen allenthalben. (All earthly creatures, no matter how clever, how cunning or how strong they may be, no matter how long they survive now how long they go onat last they must all decay, wherever they are) (Saaz 31-33). The printmakers of the 1400s and the Romantics both idealized their subjects, though in different ways. Despite the fact that individuality pervaded Romantic thinking, to both, craft and skill were important prerequisites for creation. The Expressionists, however, push abstraction and personal expression to a new, raw level. Expressionists were concerned with the primacy of emotion and employed distortion in order to portray it. Die Brcke was a group of young German artists with architectural training, in their early 1920s, which formed in Dresden in 1905. Founding members Erich Heckel and
60 Ernst Ludwig Kirchner were avid readers of poetry as well as enthusiastic appreciators of the visual arts. Coming full-circle, they and other expressionists turned to the woodcuts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for inspiration. Kirchner would refer to the works that played a decisive role in the inception of his own expressionist woodcuts as old German woodcuts (Parshall 7) in order to differentiate them from more recent works in the medium. He made his reverence for the art of woodcut and of its historical connections clear: The mysterious attraction that surrounded the invention of printing in the Middle Ages is still felt by anyone who takes up graphics seriously and performs every stage in the process with his own hands. (Dube 28) Yet, while their medium is the same as that of the medieval artisans, the impetus for their creativity was expression and not craft. Of Heckels work, his teacher Fritz Schumacher later wrote: When I criticized the drawing for its carelessness he invoked his right to stylize. I put it that a person must be able to draw correctly before going on to stylization but I did not convince him. He said that
61 the only important thing so far as he was concerned was the seizure of a total expression. (Dube 24) Although this may seem very similar to Friedrichs admonition to art teachers against employing strict structures lest they destroy the temple of individuality (Schrade 32) within the artist, the expressionists were proposing an even more radical departure, one from artistic training as a whole. Heckel also saw the search for style shared among members of Die Brcke as a search for subjectivity, to preserve freshness and navet. His colleague Ernst Ludwig Kirschner wrote: The first thing for the artists was free drawing from the free human body in the freedom of nature (Dube 28). The human body is central to Benns poem and to my visual interpretations of it. I used fleshy colors, and even the peach-colored paper has a luscious, soft feel to it. The ovular backgrounds are vaginal in form. All of these elements counteract the cold masculinity of the poem and clinical descriptions of the female body in sickness and ruins: Der Mann: Hier diese Reihe sind zerfallene Sche und diese Reihe ist zerfallene Brust.
62 Bett stinkt bei Bett. Die Schwestern wechseln stndlich. (Benn 186) (The man: Here, this row is decayed wombs and this row is decayed breasts. Bed by stinking bed. The nurses change hourly.) This first print (see pg. 68) responds to the imagery of rows of bedridden women. Here, I show women not only on their feet but dancing, the rows of beds becoming rows of paired dancers. This image is unique in the series in that it depicts more than one woman in the composition. This verse is, however, also unique in that it introduces the woman in the poems title to the women in the cancer ward. Komm, hebe ruhig diese Decke auf. Sieh, dieser Klumpen Fett und faule Sfte, das war einst irgendeinem Mann gro und hie auch Rausch und Heimat. (Benn 186) (Come, lift quietly this cover. Look, this fatty mass and putrid juices, that was once wondrous to a man and also meant ecstasy and home.) Using the same subjects in this image as did Benn, I present a healthy, sexual woman (see pg. 69): the hospital sheet becomes a lacy top, it reveals fatty masses indeed:
63 supple breasts. This woman is still the desirable beauty that Benn puts in the past tense. Komm, sieh auf diese Narbe an der Brust. Fhlst du den Rosenkranz von weichen Knoten? Fhl ruhig hin. Das Fleisch ist weich und schmerzt nicht. (Benn 186) (Come, look at this scar upon the chest. Do you feel the rosary of soft little knots? Feel it easily. The flesh is soft and unfeeling.) In this panel (see pg. 70), I play with the word Rosenkranz (rosary) (for which I could not find a suitable translation as it also connotes the scars of stigmata), by replacing the knots of flesh with a long strand of pearls, the womans vanity returned, and a veiled allusion to oysters. Hier diese blutet wie aus dreiig Leibern. Kein Mensch hat soviel Blut. Hier dieser schnitt man erst noch ein Kind aus dem verkrebsten Scho. (Benn 186) (Here, this one bleeds as from thirty bodies. No person has so much blood. Here, this one they just cut a child from her cancerous womb.)
64 In an obvious inversion of Benns imagery (see pg. 71), I present a healthy pregnancy, the womans ripe body in profile, her gaze proud. Man lt sie schlafen. Tag und Nacht. Den Neuen sagt man: hier schlft man sich gesund. Nur sonntags fr den Besuch lt man sie etwas wacher. (Benn 186) (They let them sleep. Day and night. --The newcomers they tell: Here you sleep yourself healthy. --Only Sundays for visiting does one let them be slightly more alert.) In this print (see pg. 72), the woman is waking from a healthy sleep and confronting the viewers voyeurism with a soft gaze. The women in Benns poem have neither privacy nor control over their states of consciousness. Whether this woman is inviting or repelling the viewer from her bed, she has agency that Benns women do not. Nahrung wird wenig noch verzehrt. Die Rcken sind wund. Du siehst die Fliegen. Manchmal wscht sie die Schwester. Wie man Bnke wscht. (Benn 186) (Little food gets eaten. Backs are sore. You see the flies. Sometimes the nurse washes them. As one washes benches.)
65 The women in this verse are barely alluded to. They are, presumably, the ones who would be eating, the ones whose backs are sore, and the ones being washed, but the text gives her no role in any of it. My print (see pg. 73) depicts a single woman washing herself, returning control over this small and intimate an act to her. Hier schwillt der Acker schon um jedes Bett. Fleisch ebnet sich zu Land. Glut gibt sich fort, Saft schickt sich an zu rinnen. Erde ruft. (Benn 186) (Here the grave already swells around each bed. Flesh smooths to the ground. Glow gives way. Sap gets set to flow. Earth calls.) Hitherto this one (see pg. 74), all of the images have shown the women meeting the viewers gaze. For the first time, she is passive. Benns women have rotten and returned to the earth, but this one seems only to sleep. Although this poem is somewhat unsettling in its brutal depersonalization of its subjects, criticism of women is not new. As much as the plowman may have praised his late wife, Tepl plays both sides: in his argument that the longer a person lives, the greater the risk to the immortal soul from temptation and sin, von Tepls Death says: Schonten wir nicht der biderben frauen, von den
66 unbiderben knden wir vil mer singer und sagen. (But for sparing respectable women, we could sing a much longer song about unrespectable ones) (Saaz 94-95). The question becomes, how much of this is provocation and how much personal expression? Benn would claim that his first collection was the result of an astonishingly spontaneous outburst of creativity (Dierick 3). Whether this is fact or a strategic piece of self-produced apocrypha, Benns apparent willingness to own his words lends them authenticity.
67 MANN UND FRAU GEHN DURCH DIE KREBSBARACKE BY GOTTFRIED BENN ORIGINAL INTAGLIO AND RELIEF PRINTS BY LIDIA CARA
68 Der Mann: Hier diese Reihe sind zerfallene Sche und diese Reihe ist zerfallene Brust. Bett stinkt bei Bett. Die Schwestern wechseln stndlich. (The man: Here, this row is decayed wombs and this row is decayed breasts. Bed by stinking bed. The nurses change hourly.)
69 Komm, hebe ruhig diese Decke auf. Sieh, dieser Klumpen Fett und faule Sfte, das war einst irgendeinem Mann gro und hie auch Rausch und Heimat. (Come, lift quietly this cover. Look, this fatty mass and putrid juices, that was once wondrous to a man and also meant ecstasy and home.)
70 Komm, sieh auf diese Narbe an der Brust. Fhlst du den Rosenkranz von weichen Knoten? Fhl ruhig hin. Das Fleisch ist weich und schmerzt nicht. (Come, look at this scar upon the chest. Do you feel the rosary of soft little knots? Feel it easily. The flesh is soft and unfeeling.)
71 Hier diese blutet wie aus dreiig Leibern. Kein Mensch hat soviel Blut. Hier dieser schnitt man erst noch ein Kind aus dem verkrebsten Scho. (Here, this one bleeds as from thirty bodies. No person has so much blood. Here, this one they just cut a child from her cancerous womb.)
72 Man lt sie schlafen. Tag und Nacht. Den Neuen sagt man: hier schlft man sich gesund. Nur sonntags fr den Besuch lt man sie etwas wacher. (They let them sleep. Day and night. --The newcomers they tell: Here you sleep yourself healthy. --Only Sundays for visiting does one let them be slightly more alert.)
73 Nahrung wird wenig noch verzehrt. Die Rcken sind wund. Du siehst die Fliegen. Manchmal wscht sie die Schwester. Wie man Bnke wscht. (Little food gets eaten. Backs are sore. You see the flies. Sometimes the nurse washes them. As one washes benches.)
74 Hier schwillt der Acker schon um jedes Bett. Fleisch ebnet sich zu Land. Glut gibt sich fort, Saft schickt sich an zu rinnen. Erde ruft. (Here the grave already swells around each bed. Flesh smooths to the ground. Glow gives way. Sap gets set to flow. Earth calls.)
75 CONCLUSION In Der Ackermann Von Tepl ultimately defined death as a necessary counterpart to life: Das leben ist durch sterbens willen geschaffen. Were leben nicht, wir weren nicht, unser geschefte were nicht; damit were auch nicht der werlte ordenung. (Life is created for the sake of death. Were there no life, we would not exist, nor our handiwork, and as a result there would be no order in the world.) (Saaz 68-69) However, some of his descriptions seem congruent to the ethereal and final image of death that Heine presents, for example when von Tepls Death says: Uns haben rechtfertig geteilet die Rmer und die poeten, wan sie uns ba dann du bekanten. Du fragest, was wir sein. Wir sein nichts und sein doch etwas. Deshalben nichts, wan wir weder leben weder wesen, noch gestalt noch understand haben, nicht geis sein, nicht sichtig sein, nicht greiflich sein; deshalben etwas, wan wir sein des lebens ende, des wesens ende, des nichtwesens anfang, ein mittel zwischen in beiden. (The Romans and the poets judged us just, because they knew us better than you do. You
76 ask what we are. We are nothing and yet we are something. Nothing because we have neither life nor being, neither shape nor condition, are not spirit, cannot be seen nor touched; yet something, because we are the end of life, the end of being, the beginning of not-being, a mean between the two.) (Saaz 48-51) Indeed, Heine could be the kind of poet to which von Tepls Death refers, if not for the radical departure in Heines work from the view of death as a necessary universal law to death as a welcome relief from suffering that is life, and a companion to the artistic mind. Benn has no such romantic view of death, nor does he personify the phenomenon, indeed he doesnt even personify the subjects of his poem, rather he depicts life as a rotting race to indifferent non-being. Still, von Tepl also touches upon both the virtue of women and death as mere physical decay: eines jeglichen menschen schne mu entweder das alter oder der tod vernichten. (Either age or death must destroy all human beauty) (Saaz 64-65). Regarding attitudes towards death and their expression through personal literary works, it would be a mistake not to address the ages of the respective authors, for a persons proximity to death can alter his perspective on it
77 as much or more than the era from which he writes. Von Tepl writes from the middle of his adult years, weighing the past and the future and finding them in balance. Der Ackermann tackles the problem of death from all angles. Von Tepl gives the most complete and balanced view of Death, perhaps due to his humanist leanings. His rhetoric touches upon the themes of the later works: death as release from earthly suffering, death as decay, but his final argument is that of death as necessity. In Morphine, however, Heine is confronting death not on behalf of another, but for himself. For him, there is no balance, no God judge, only night and darkness, themselves occupying a single polarity. Morphine was written late in Heines career, after the author had already taken to his deathbed, but Benn was just at the start of his career when he wrote Mann und Frau gehn durch die Krebsbaracke. Perhaps his clinical detachment is the result of his work, but perhaps it is also influenced by the fact that his future stretches far before him. In exploring the various art movements that corresponded to these literary works, I felt that my attempts at them became increasingly successful as the styles trended more towards individual expression (and perhaps also as the literature became more forceful, so as
78 to give me something stronger to which I could respond). Through my own artwork, I found that, no matter how faithful I tried to be to the time period in question, the hand of the artist is impossible to avoid and this was true of the authors in question as well: Whether von Tepl intended his work to be merely a work of rhetoric or an experiment in the New High German form, the result was a deeply personal poem about love, loss, and the acceptance of death. Heines Morphine can be even more closely related to his life, his physical suffering, and his expressed desire that his suffering end. Benn attempts a cool detachment, but his choice of words and subject matter give him away. Although an artist is informed by his times, which are in many ways inextricable from the persons independent self, the result of a lifes work is personal expression. The final question to consider here is whether and how our treatments of the subjects about which we choose to study are as reflective and revealing of us as those about which these poets wrote.
79 WORKS CITED Benn, Gottfried. Prose, Essays, Poems Ed. Volkmar Sander. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1987. Becker, Reinhard Paul. Introduction. Prose, Essays, Poems Ed. Volkmar Sander. By Gottfried Benn. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1987. Bisanz, Rudolf M. German Romanticism and Philipp Otto Runge DeKalb IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1970. Cuomo, Glenn R. Purging an Art-Bolshevist: The Persecution of Gottfried Benn in the Years 1933-1938. German Studies Review 9.1 (Feb. 1986): 85-105. Dietrick, Augustinus P., ed. Gottfried Benn and his Critics: Major Interpretations 1912-1992 Columbia, SC: Camden House, Inc., 1992. Donahue, Neil H., ed. A Companion to the Literature of German Expressionism New York: Camden House, Inc., 2005. Dube, Wolf-Dieter. The Expressionists Trans. Mary Whittall. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1985.
80 Finke, Ulrich. German Painting from Romanticism to Expressionism Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1975. Heine, Heinrich. Poems of Heinrich Heine Trans. Louis Untermeyer. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1917. Heine, Heinrich. The Romantic School and Other Essays Ed. Jost Hermand and Robert C. Holub. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1985. Holub, Robert C. Introduction. The Romantic School and Other Essays By Heinrich Heine. Ed. Jost Hermand and Robert C. Holub. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1985. Maurer, K. W. Introduction. Death and the Ploughman By Johann von Tepl. Trans. K. W. Maurer. London: Langley & Sons Ltd., 1947. Parshall, Peter, and Ranier Schoch. Origins of European Printmaking: Fifteenth-Century Woodcuts and Their Public Trans. Linda B. Parshall New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. Reinhart, Max, ed. Early Modern German Literature 13501700 New York: Camden House, 2007. Saaz, Johannes von. The Plowman from Bohemia Trans. Alexander and Elizabeth Henderson. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1966.
81 Sammons, Jeffrey L. Heinrich Heine Princeton: Yale University Press, 1969. Sammons, Jeffrey L. Heinrich Heine, The Elusive Poet New Haven: Princeton University Press, 1979. Schrade, Hubert. German Romantic Painting Trans. Maria Pelikan. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1977. Schneider, Reinhold. Introduction. The Plowman from Bohemia By Johannes von Tepl. Trans. Alexander and Elizabeth Henderson. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1966. Tepl, Johann von. Death and the Ploughman Trans. K. W. Maurer. London: Langley & Sons Ltd., 1947. Tepl, Johannes von. Der Ackermann Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam jun. GmbH & Co., 2006. Wagner, Irmgard. 15th and 16th century German Literature and Thought. Introductory lecture given at the Smithsonian Saturday Seminar on The Spirit of the Northern Renaissance at the German Embassy on July 22, 2006. American Goethe Society 6 May 2009.