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Constructions of Masculinity in Ernst Krenek's Schwergewicht, oder die Ehre der Nation

  • Author(s): Ott, Ciera
  • Advisor(s): Sun, Cecilia
  • et al.
Abstract

After losing World War I, Germany’s new society, the Weimar Republic (1919—1933), needed to rebuild its image both at home and abroad. As a reaction to the soft bodies of their military, who some argued led the country in its humbling defeat, Weimar developed a newfound fascination of bodies. Athletes embodied Weimar’s new ideals and boxers especially came to represent a new brand of hegemonic masculinity. The Ambassador to America even went as far as declaring that it was athletes, not thinkers, who would move the country forward.

Ernst Krenek responded to this craze by composing a satire. The burlesque operetta Schwergewicht, oder die Ehre der Nation (1928), reflects on what the idolization of boxers really means for both society and the boxers themselves. Krenek alienates his boxer, Ochsenschwanz, from the audience by neglecting the boxer musically and writing libretto where he can only be categorized as brutish, violent, and unintelligent. He frames the operetta with popular dance music, which supports Ochsenschwanz’s rival Gaston, a dancer. Gaston emasculates and humiliates Ochsenschwanz until he paralyzes the boxer and renders his strong body useless. Besides easily cracking the tough exterior of the boxer, Krenek exposes the truth that the fighting machine’s singular function is only useful in a society that values toughness. When society asks the boxer to represent all of its hopes and dreams, he will fall short.

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