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WEIMAR CULTURAL LIFE Social Change Weimar Cultural Life • Germany became one of the leading centres of European culture during the 1920s • There were exciting developments in literature, art, music and film. Literature • It was during this period that writers such as Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse and Erich Maria Remarque came to the fore. • An important playwright of the time was Bertolt Brecht. Film • Germany’s film industry experienced a ‘golden age’. • Films included Blue Angel starring Marlene Dietrich; and the horror film, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari Art • Berlin replaced Paris as the centre of modern art, thanks to the work of modernist painters such as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann • Modernism and cubism became popular art forms Modernism describes a series of reforming cultural movements in art and architecture, music, literature and the applied arts. Painting by German artist Paul Klees 1. Beckmann - Carnival 2. Dix – Stormtroopers advancing under gas attack 3. Dix – Portrait of a journalist Architecture • The Bauhaus school of architecture and design saw advances in building technique and design. New Lifestyles • This artistic growth was accompanied by the emergence of avant garde (experimental and new) lifestyles, seemingly hedonistic (given over to pleasure) and a freer approach to sexuality. • This was epitomised by the cabaret culture of Berlin. Cabaret • This cabaret culture and risque entertainment is seen in the movie, Cabaret. • However, it should not be forgotten that Berlin was also the centre of serious art forms and that Germany was one of the most educated societies in Europe. German scientists won 7 Nobel Prizes during the 1920s. Why did culture flourish in Germany at this time? • There was some influence from American music and cinema. This was the decade of the ‘roaring twenties’ Effects of World war I • Post World War I Germany gave some sections of society the freedom to express and experiment in a more liberal atmosphere. • Some sections of the community reacted to the horrors of WWI and economic and social dislocation, with experimental art forms or simple hedonism. • Those who participated in many of the new cultural activities turned away from traditional German influences and responded more to trends in the international community. What were the results? • Germany gained an international reputation for avant garde art forms. This created resentment amongst some German nationalists. • It was essentially an urban phenomenon and alienated the rural areas and large sections of both the conservative and working classes. • Conservatives and nationalists saw it as evidence of the decadence of democracy. • Conservatives claimed it was ‘unGerman’ and influenced by the left-wing elements of society. • Moreover, the apparent outbreak of immorality, which seemed to accompany democracy, helped convince many that the country needed a return to a more ordered, authoritarian system of government. The ‘New Woman’ – the perception • The rights and status of women underwent significant change during the Weimar era. In 1918 the new German constitution gave all women over the age of 20 the right to vote and hold public office. • More women entered white–collar professional positions. • There was a new perception of women as being sexually liberated, financially independent, city- dwelling single girl. The ‘New Woman’ – the reality • This perception was not representative of the majority of women. • Most German women were eager to marry and have children. • Few were involved in the sexually active, single lifestyle. • Most women in the workforce were unmarried and gave up work when they married. • Men called on women to return to their maternal role and to stop competing with men in economic and political matters.
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