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Volume 21, Issue 1, 2008
Volume 21 Issue 1 2008
The Collapse of Time: Decennial Anniversaries and the Experience of Time in the German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic (GDR) collapsed in November 1989, just one month after celebrating its fortieth birthday. “Rising from the ruins” of the Second World War, East Germany—as it is more commonly known—had always boasted that socialism was the future. But by the end of 1989, German socialism was defunct. The reasons for its disintegration are often discussed, but this study proposes new explanation: the GDR collapsed as a result of the collapse of time. By studying the propaganda surrounding the four decennial anniversary celebrations, the author traces how time in the GDR became characterized by stagnation and futurelessness, a far cry from the optimism of the state’s earlier years. Analysis of newspaper articles, speeches, television specials, posters, advertisements, and an interview shed light on the temporal progression of the GDR toward its final end. Spurred by the perestroika and glasnost reforms proposed by the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev, people in the GDR began to see a vision of a viable future, and left the extended, stagnated present behind. But the state—also knowledgeable of the deficiencies of the present—took a different approach, and retreated into the past. The present became nonexistent. And finally, the GDR collapsed in that void, a temporal implosion heralded by sledgehammers on the Berlin Wall.
By 1890, the French government under the Third Republic seemed on the brink of political and social disaster. Anarchists were planting bombs in Parisian cafes, the birthrate was declining, and Germany—who had won a war against France in 1870—was surpassing her economically. In this time of political and social anxiety, women became increasingly important in the rhetoric of the Third Republic, as the regime determined to actively support the decorative arts in an effort to revive France as the world’s producer of fine feminine luxury goods. This rhetoric relied on a clear social and physical separation between the bourgeois woman (purveyor of the home and mother of France’s future citizens) and the prostitute (society’s necessary receptacle for the dangerous male lust that found no place in the bourgeois home).
Using two paintings of feminine interiors—one of a bourgeois home, the other of a brothel—by contemporary painters Edouard Vuillard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, respectively, this paper explores the ways in which the opposition of the bourgeois woman to the prostitute became increasingly difficult to maintain as the century turned. The boundaries between the bourgeois home and the brothel began to rupture with the migration and mixing of social and class signifiers within these highly charged spaces, and with the threatening emergence of a new, highly independent bourgeois woman (femme nouvelle). The collapse of this rigid distinction between the two spaces reflected more serious social changes and threats as the Third Republic descended into the political turmoil that would lead ultimately to its war with Germany in 1914.
T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman, two of the most monumental figures and divergent thinkers in American poetic history, are quite radically opposed to one another in terms of conceptual bent. Whitman, the poet of the body and buoyant personality, and Eliot, champion of cerebral and hermetic verse, do not seem, therefore, to offer anything in the way of theoretical permeability. Nonetheless, in this essay I attempt to re-evaluate Eliot’s most elemental essay upon “Tradition and the Individual Talent” in order to assess just how accommodating this text is toward the “individual” and the most “solitary” of singers, Whitman himself. My method is informed by a close analysis of Eliot’s discursive technique, and how this past-immersed perspective often leaves off a more “lively” vital and aesthetic envisioning proffered by his poetic predecessor. In short, I work toward the ultimate aim of demonstrating the broader applicability of Eliot’s treatise toward Whitman, and how the earlier poet, although less identifiable with any theory of “fixed” tradition, masterfully inaugurates a precipatory paradigm of poetic creation.