Monday, January 21, 2008

The Moral Dilemma: Waning Creativity

It appears to me from reading Kraus' "Demolished Literature," that his issue with the coffeehouse culture in Vienna was stifling individual creativity. It seems that young poets and writers striving to compete for recognition with the established Coffeehouse veterans try to do so, "by means of somebody already established as of yesterday" (74). Therefore the progression of literature, according to Kraus, is more of a regression; poets are looking to imitate popular historical writers to achieve their own fame, losing their own individual creative styles. In a specific case Kraus satirizes the gentleman from Linz, Hermann Bahr, at great length for seeking out mediocre, untalented writers, promising them fame and then pressuring them into the style of his “master” Goethe, stripping them of their individuality (despite the fact that Kraus doesn’t think they had much to begin with). It is interesting because this trend of imitating past styles is merely the literary form of a greater issue: historicism. Like imitating architecture styles of the past, the writers abandon the risk of forging a unique style in favor of the already established, popular style. I think in this sense the authors are lying just as the architects are in attributing past styles to specific buildings in the hopes of evoking specific feelings. By continuing to imitate past styles the growth of Viennese literature was being stunted. This is the moral dilemma Kraus saw in the language of the coffeehouse poets.


Mina said...

I think you make a really good point here. I like your comparison of historicism in architecture to the emerging literary style of the coffehouse literati. I had the same impression that these writers were making literary criticism an art in itself, rather than creating something from purely individual thoughts and instincts.

I'm not sure whether or not this is such a bad thing as Kraus says, because I don't think that art could be done purely independent from outside influence. I guess what Kraus is saying is that these artists are just fondling with ideas and criticisms rather than creating something.

Dane Weitmann said...

I agree with what you're saying here. Kraus is definitely critiquing the coffeehouse writers for copying past works so that they can find fame. I find this very interesting because they are all about these "nerves", this new ideal of making something completely new, something that no one has seen before. Kraus is clearly saying that they are not showing any of these nerves, they are not creating anything new.