Crisis and Form in the Later Writing of Ingeborg Bachmann

Crisis and Form in the Later Writing of Ingeborg Bachmann: An Aesthetic Examination of the Poetic Drafts of the 1960s

Áine McMurtry
Volume: 84
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 262
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  • Book Info
    Crisis and Form in the Later Writing of Ingeborg Bachmann
    Book Description:

    Ingeborg Bachmann (1927-73), one of the most acclaimed German-language poets of the post-war period, famously turned away from the lyric during the 1960s. Publicly declaring that she had stopped writing poetry, Bachmann began work on the prose Todesarten cycle that would dominate the last decade of her life. During a period of personal breakdown in the 1960s, however, she privately continued to write in verse, and the publication of selected drafts in 2000 threw new light on her compositional methods in this period. As the most extensive study to date of the poetic drafts, this monograph leads away from the polemic that surrounded their publication to establish the fragmentary texts as an experimental stage of writing that proved formally and thematically significant for later published prose works. Bridging the genre gap of much Bachmann scholarship, McMurtry illuminates the development of a reflexive mode where sophisticated aesthetic strategies enable the oblique expression of cultural critique. 

    eISBN: 978-1-78188-056-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Á. M.
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. [Illustration]
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. 1-36)

    Composed during a period of intense crisis in the early 1960s, this expression of disillusionment with lyric poetry highlights the determining paradox in Ingeborg Bachmann’s late experimental verse. Time and again, the author returned to the lyric to articulate disillusion with lyric forms, culminating most famously in the lyric farewell to lyric poetry, ‘Keine Delikatessen’, which appeared in the fifteenth issue of theKursbuchjournal, in November 1968.¹ Whilst preoccupation with aspects of crisis is found throughout Bachmann’s late work, it is in the draft lyric writings that an urgent engagement with the problem of how to find viable form...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Writing in the 1960s
    (pp. 37-85)

    This letter sent by Bachmann to Adolf Opel during autumn 1964 gives a frank account of her contemporary stay in a Swiss clinic. Alongside mention of daily medical treatments, Bachmann considers the background to her illness and refers to an earlier ‘catastrophe’ in likely allusion to the break-up of her relationship with Max Frisch. The reflection on the difficulty of giving conscious expression to her condition and the description of conflated physical and psychological distress are representative of the engagement with personal crisis in the author’s contemporary correspondence and writings. Whilst the dynamic aspect of spoken exchange with Opel is...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The Case of the Berlin Writings
    (pp. 86-133)

    West Berlin forms the setting for a series of Bachmann’s prose and verse writings from the early years of the 1960s. Throughout these texts, the former centre of the German Reich is presented as a scene of occupation and strife, its Western zone appears as the arena for continued militarism and everyday aggression during peacetime. The construction of the Berlin Wall that began on 13 August 1961 consolidated the dominant post-war image of the city as the site not only of national division but of the international East–West divide.¹ Conceived to combat the mass exodus from the GDR to...

  9. CHAPTER 3 ‘Liebe ist ein Kunstwerk’: The Appeal to Gaspara Stampa
    (pp. 134-188)

    These interview reflections by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated into German for the first issue of the landmarkKursbuchjournal, cast significant light on Bachmann’s politicizing artistic project during the 1960s. Whilst Sartre’s model of the political intellectual cannot be applied to Bachmann’s more sceptical poetics,² his remarks about writing correspond closely to her contemporary aesthetic concern to depict the interrelation of individual and society. Sartre’s aesthetic interest in areas of human contradiction and ambiguity, as well as his emphasis on the need for a contemporary perspective on age-old literary themes such as love and death, provide a useful starting point from...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Tristan and the Composition of a Reflexive Aesthetic
    (pp. 189-222)

    The identification of music as the highest form of artistic expression described by Bachmann in this late interview reflects its privileged place throughout her oeuvre. As seen in these comments, Bachmann’s contemplation of music consistently relates to her consideration of literature and her own writing processes, where music features as a powerful, alternative mode of expression. Elsewhere in the interview, Bachmann emphasizes the informed character of her relationship to music and suggests that her ability to sight-read sets her apart from other writers. She outlines the importance of her long-standing friendship with Hans Werner Henze, for whom she wrote libretti...

    (pp. 223-227)

    In these interview remarks of June 1973, Bachmann comments on the difficulty of the move towards prose forms in her later writings. As part of a wider discussion in which she considers figures such as Hofmannsthal and Rimbaud, Bachmann presents her own shift away from verse as representative of that of many writers. She reveals her concern to reflect on the aesthetic motivation for, and wider implications of, this development. As is often the case when discussing the shift of emphasis in her work, Bachmann emphasizes the crucial role of experience for prose composition and highlights the different formal requirements...

    (pp. 228-242)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 243-252)