Understanding European history
Understanding European history
Although experiencing a period of expanding intellectual and geographical horizons, European history in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries witnessed, on the whole, a profoundly intolerant age. To clarify our opinion, we must first introduce European history under the literary history of this age. Here, we will display our understanding of European history in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the one by Brecht or the one by Montaigne as two famous authors of the Renaissance age.
Herr Bertolt Brecht in relation to European drama and theatre Anyone who was anyone in Germany and France wrote historical dramas. It is therefore understandable that the poets of inner conflicts, the prophets of the Byronic hero, also emerged as writers of historical drama and often released the two themes in the same play. The most important condition a historical drama should fulfill when it was to be performed was that should represent history as an all-embracing system and as a force which helps to define identity.
Unlike O’Neil and Pirandello, however, Brecht does not want the spectator to identify or feel empathy with his heroes. In 1922, he noted in his diary: I hope in Baal and Jungle I’ve avoided one common artistic bloomer that of trying to carry people away. Instinctively, I’ve kept my distance and ensured that the realization of my…. effects remains within bounds. The spectator’s splendid isolation’s is left intact; it is not sua res quae agitur. Consequently, Brecht draws quite different conclusions from the concept of the impossibility of individuality in Baal than do O’Neil or Pirandello in their work.
Brecht opposes the idea of the ever-constant – tragic or polyvalent – absurd being (Sein) of man with the theorem of man’s changeability. He designed the comedy Mann IST Mann (Man equals Man) as a kind of experimental apparatus which would demonstrate the basic pre-conditions of re-assembling one personality into another. Herr Bertolt Brecht maintains man equals man- a view that has been around since time began. But then Herr Brecht points out how far one can maneuver and manipulate that man.
All of Brecht’s re-writs began from the insight gained from Baal, that man is nothing without his social and economic relations (One is none) and that it is only through relationships that he becomes something; these relationships prove to be not primarily human ones but rather relationships based on commodity exchange. Such relationships of ownership turn man into an object which can be used in a negative or positive way, according to the situation, and this can be demonstrated experimentally. Brecht developed the form of Lehrstuck in response to a very specific problem which repeatedly confronted his theater in the course of 1920s.
It concerns, on the one hand, the new type, and, on the other, the middle-class audience response to it. Brecht presumes that there can be no individuality in the way conceived by the former bourgeoisie, and that no definitive statements can be made on new trans-individual man since it can only rise as the result of a lasting process of development. Brecht felt supported in this view by Marxism, which defines man as a changeable and world-changing being, whose consciousness is determined through his social being.
The new man, who will be formed as a product of situation where there is no bourgeoisie, in a classless society, thus cannot be defined and fixed in advance. The dramatic poet in my view is merely someone who records history. He stands above history, however, in that he creates history for a second time and places us directly in the life of a certain time, instead of providing a dry account; he provides characters instead of characteristics, and figures instead of descriptions.
It is his greatest ask to come as close as he can to history as it really happened. Brecht constructed as antithesis, from similar points of departure he arrives at completely opposite conclusion: • The absolute self-realization of the vital individual, liberated from all moral scruples is impossible in bourgeois society, since this form of society forces everyone to fit in and its conventions stand in total opposition to the individual’s claim to happiness and eradicate individuality.
• The individual who sets himself up to be absolute, who lives out his insatiable sexual lust, his incontinent consumption of food and drink, is a monstrous social being who either falls into the realms of the mythic or becomes part of the circle of nature- from the white mother’s womb to the dark womb of the earth- and dissolves his own individuality. Brecht turns his conclusion into a positive one- something only Hugo von Hofmannsthal had recognized at that time. Michel de Montaigne’s essays in the Renaissance age
Mantaigne essentially invented the literary form of essay, a short subjective treatment of a given topic, of which the book contains a large number. Essay is French for “trial” or “attempt”. Montaigne wrote in a kind of crafted rhetoric designed to intrigue and involve the reader, sometimes appearing to move in a stream-of-thought from topic to topic and at other times employing a structured style which gives more emphasis to the didactic nature of his work. His arguments are often supported with quotes from classical Greek and Roman texts. Montaigne’s stated goal in his book is to describe man, and especially himself, with utter frankness.
As an essayist, his great project centered on the sustained delineation of only one character, which was Montaigne’s character. He finds the great variety and volatility of human nature to be its most basic features. A typical quote is “I have never seen a greater monster or miracle than myself,” He describes his own poor memory, his ability to solve problems and mediate conflicts without truly getting emotionally involved, his disgust for man’s pursuit of lasting fame, and his attempts to detach himself from worldly things to prepare for death.
Montaigne is known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. He became famous for his effortless ability to merge serious intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography- and his massive volume essays (translated literally as “Attempts”) contains, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written. Montaigne had a direct influence on writers the world over, from William Shakespeare to Rene Descartes, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Stephan Zweig.
Montaigne freely borrowed of others, and he has found men willing to borrow of him as freely. We need not wonder at the reputation which he with seeming facility achieved. He was, without being aware of it, the leader of a new school in letters and morals. His book was different from all others which were at that date in the world. It diverted the ancient currents of thought into new channels.
It told its readers, with unexampled frankness, what its writer’s opinion was about men and things, and threw what must have been a strange kind of new light on many matters but darkly understood. Above all, the essayist uncased himself, and made his intellectual and physical organism public property. He took the world into his confidence on all subjects. His essays were a sort of literary anatomy, where we get a diagnosis of the writer’s mind, made by himself at different levels and under a large variety of operating influences.
It was reasonable enough that Montaigne should expect for his work a certain share of celebrity in Gascony, and even, as time went on, through¬out France; but it is scarcely probable that he foresaw how his renown was to become world-wide; how he was to occupy an almost unique position as a man of letters and a moralist; how the Essays would be read, in all the principal languages of Europe, by millions of intelligent human beings, who never heard of Perigord or the League, and who are in doubt, if they are questioned, whether the author lived in the sixteenth or the eighteenth century.
This is true fame. A man of genius belongs to no period and no country. He speaks the language of nature, which is always everywhere the same. Evaluating the difference between Brecht and Montaigne
Thus, if the Stream of things is a mixture of dying and regeneration, the thought problems confronting us are dialectical, in the identity of opposites, of negative and positive; and also linguistic, in the logical validity of sentences and the mutual exclusion of their meanings; and also aesthetic, in so far as one aspect of the dead moon’s continued life is its perception as strange [fremd] by even one last living being, its estrangement of itself and of that being.
Finally, causality intervenes, and intersects the vast sublunary landscape of all that is: raising its own linguistic and dialectical questions. Brecht was willing to force the issue even more pointedly, as in his suggestion that although the purely biological death of the individual IS uninteresting to society, dying ought none the less to be taught. It is probably less a Montaigne-like aspiration than the expression of themes surrounding Die Massnahme from this same period.
A social Tao, on the other hand, is surely bound up with the issues of technology and modernity raised above, to which we will return in conclusion.
Bibliography References used in the current essay: 1. History of European drama and theatre, Erika Fischer-Lichte, Jo Riley. Pages 232-238-315-317-318 2. The Complete Essays of Michel de Montaigne, Vol. 1 of 2. Michel de Montaigne. Pages 1-2 3. Brecht and method, Fredric Jameson. Page 171
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 25 December 2016
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