The cannon and the sparrow : patterns of conflict in the poetry of Hans Magnus Enzensberger, 1955-1975.
Sewell, William (Bill)
In his poem "Zwei Fehler" Enzensberger uses the images "sparrows" and “cannon" to represent the unequal opposites of poetry, the all too frequently insignificant utterance of an individual, and the institutions of power, social structures subject to change primarily through concerted and gradual pressure on the part of many. The interaction between the two has produced in Enzensberger a fundamental conflict: an irreconcilable tension between political commitment and political resignation. This conflict has been apparent to critics since the publication of his first collection of verse in 1957. What has not been considered is the possibility that it influences the very structure of Enzensberger's poems and the composition of their language. For, as this study sets out to demonstrate, there are at least five patterns which give evidence of such a link. These patterns may be divided into two principal groupings: those in the first present a direct confrontation within the individual poem of conflicting elements, allowing them to reach a paradoxical unity in their disharmony; those in the second reveal in comparisons of separate poems the poet's uncertainty as to how to shape his work, whether to pursue short-term political effects or long-term poetic value. In the principle of "Entstellung” Enzensberger found a basis for a language capable of expressing not only the dissonance of the modern world, but also his own complex, divided state; a language which denies words their conventional usage, revitalizing them in jarring and bewildering combinations. Two varieties of "entstellte Sprache" particularly favoured by Enzensberger are paradox and the "Mosaikspiel". Paradox is an effective literary means of uniting what is superficially incompatible, occurring in Enzensberger's work not only in isolated instances within individual poems, but also comprising on occasions the central pivot on which a whole poem may turn. The juxtaposition of sharply contrasting modes of language, as in the "Mosaikspiel", not only has the function of surprising and provoking the reader, but also exposes a principle of tension and dividedness working within the language itself. Poems which employ a "Doppelganger" or are based on the interplay of two distinct voices consciously incorporate tension into their very shape and represent the most explicit formal acknowledgement of conflict. The phrase "redender Rauch und redendes Glas" has been used to denote the extremes of comprehensibility encountered in Enzensberger's work, between the clear and direct and the dark and oblique. These extremes appear to follow a pattern of the utmost proximity to a given subject or the utmost distance, depending on whether the poet has the immediacy of political rage to communicate or cool indifference. Finally, it is evident that the poet's emotional political spontaneity allowed him initially to cast his poems in a loose “catalogue” form, which in the course of time, as he came to doubt the political efficacy of any poetry and was able to maintain a. greater distance from his subject-matter, developed more mature, disciplined variations.
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: German
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis