„Dieses furchtbare Doppelgängertum der Repräsentation“ Gespenstische Figuren der Souveränität zwischen 1910 und 1919
„Dieses furchtbare Doppelgängertum der Repräsentation“
Gespenstische Figuren der Souveränität zwischen 1910 und 1919
In 1917, the German politician Hugo Preuß delivered a speech in Berlin on the occasion of the Kaiser’s birthday. Preuß argued that the cult of an Emperor was an anachronistic remnant of a bygone era. Yet as a concept it was strangely effective in its hold on the political imagination: World War I had shifted modern political thought away from revering the individual and directed attention to the grand, depersonalized contexts and currents of history itself. This dissertation argues that in the transitional period from monarchy to democracy between 1910 and 1919, although the monarchy was increasingly perceived as anachronistic in Germany and Austria, the idea or schema of a personified form of sovereignty occupied a powerful albeit ambiguous presence in the cultural and political imaginary. For unlike in France, there would be no violent, revolutionary rupture of Hohenzollern and Habsburg monarchical power until 1918. Yet the monarch’s presence was fraught, for although the Kaiser was still literally present on the political scene, the figure of the emperor was clearly perceived as a ghostly remnant of a political tradition that was out of sync with the times. The institution of monarchy had no future and lived on, already, as a cultural phantom. This ambivalent state, or to speak with Ernst Bloch, of simultaneous non-simultaneity, resulted in an outpouring of “Doppelgängers,” literary and cinematic ghostly doubles of sovereigns. These figures, wavering between what Ernst Kantorowicz influentially termed the “king’s two bodies,” are the subjects of this dissertation’s line of inquiry.
Before the democratic reforms of the postwar period, I suggest, literature and cinema became key cultural sites that registered future political changes in structures of political representation and responded to them by developing new forms of representation in which alternative models of sovereignty were articulated and developed. Literary texts furnished a reflexive space in which these models could be manipulated, resulting in new imaginary combinations and narratives in which an increasingly bureaucratic and reified political present could conflate with the remains of the monarch’s corpus mysticum. Short forms of texts like the gloss, the anecdote, or the newspaper notice, I argue, were especially suited to exploring these new forms of representation. For in these ephemeral textual genres, authors were able to shrink and condense the “anachronistic” form of the royal sovereign in ways that augmented and simultaneously dissected his new “ephemeral” representational status. The same was true in the cinema, where an incipient new world of ephemeral celluloid doubles could intersect in volatile ways with the ghostly political present of the monarchy.
The first chapter addresses this multiplicity of Imperial doubles by examining a short text by the Austrian author Bernhold Viertel. This anecdote recounts the meeting between Kaiser Franz Josef I. and Friedrich Wilhelm II. in the Kinematographentheater at the Prater in Vienna on the occasion of the First International Hunting Exhibition. Viertel’s text introduces the havoc that results when Emperors come face to face not only with each other, but also with their filmic doppelgängers and when traditional, aristocratic leisure practices like hunting are confronted with the mass culture industry. Viertel’s emphasis on ghostly doubles leads to the second chapter, of which two short texts by Franz Kafka are the subject. In the short story Beim Bau der chinesischen Mauer and the unfinished one-act play Der Gruftwächter, Kafka transforms the Habsburg monarchy into a phantom that finds itself inhabiting the emerging new institutional world of political bureaucracy. In 1915, these monarchical phantoms found a concrete form in Germany: a colossal, wooden effigy of the war hero General Paul von Hindenburg that was erected in the heart of Berlin. Dada author Hugo Ball composed a gloss about this wooden giant, into which the German public was invited to hammer nails. As Ball recounts, this curious form of an ephemeral monument paradoxically channeled fetishistic and destructive elements from the masses into a new ersatz figure of representational authority. Max Weber’s writings from the same period mark some of the best known contemporary attempts to synthesize and systematize questions of modern political structures and representations into an incipient sociological discourse. The final chapter explores the ways in which Weber construes the relationship between bureaucracy and charisma as articulated in his famous speech Politik als Beruf. In particular, the chapter focuses on Weber’s concept of charismatic leadership and Weber’s curious example of the “ingenious pirate,” a literary conceit that I argue can only exist as a cypher of anti-bureaucratic desire for charisma from the perspective of the rational, disenchanted world of the office. This set of case studies in the political imaginary of the Wilhelmine period thus moves from 1910 to 1919 via a wide variety of new literary genres and cultural practices. This variety reflects the numerous ways in which authors and spectators (not least monarchs themselves) confronted a consistent set of questions relating to modern sovereignty, but arrived at a plethora of different answers. It concludes with what I argue might characterize the symbolic end of an era: a 1919 photograph widely disseminated in the mass press of the first German president Friedrich Ebert. The photograph depicts Ebert in a swimming suit on the beach, marking what would emerge as a new, “democratic” era in the relationship between political authority and representational embodiment.