Criminals and Artists: Detecting the Artist in German Crime Literature of the Twentieth Century
My dissertation,Criminals and Artists: Detecting the Artist in German Crime Literature of the Twentieth Century, examines how German speaking authors of the twentieth century reflect upon their identity as artists through writing about criminals both real and fictional. Moreover, each case represents a response to a specific era. This project begins with Thomas Mann's crime novel Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull. Mann's work draws on a long, but rarely examined tradition of linking the criminal to the artist that stretches back to Plato and forward to Michel Foucault. Mann's novel establishes the nexus in which the artist and the criminal are united. Felix Krull, a confidence man, is a unique case because he is simultaneously a criminal deceiving society for one's personal gain, and an artist, performing a role for an audience like a masterful actor. This novel not only uncovers points of intersection for the criminal and the artist, but also reveals the surprising function the public / audience has in differentiating the two.
This study also considers a little known and short-lived series of reports on contemporary criminal cases by a variety of authors called the Außenseiter der Gesellschaft. Die Verbrechen der Gegenwart edited by Rudolf Leonhard. The specific volumes discussed are Der Mord am Polizeiagenten Blau by Eduard Trautner, Karl Otten's Der Fall Strau?, and Freiherr von Egloffstein by Thomas Schramek. This group is responding to the criminalization of the artist in the Weimar Republic which threatens their own personal freedom and livelihood. Interestingly, they discuss contemporary criminal cases without the aid of fiction to defend the freedom of speech and combat the labeling of artists as criminals.
The artist and the criminal are also linked by seriality. An analysis of the fictional serial killer in Doron Rabinovici's novel Die Suche nach M, provides a new way to approach the main characters of the work which illuminates new insights to the process of identity formation and re-formation for the surviving generations of Jewish-Austrians living in Vienna in the decades following the Holocaust. Read alongside Rabinovici's short story “Ich schriebe Dir” and Mark Seltzer's Serial Killers: Death and Life in America's Wound Culture, this novel discovers the serial bahavior that authors might exhibit through writing.
School:University of Cincinnati
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:crime literature artists and criminals hochstapler serial killers thomas mann doron rabinovici identity formation criminality history of the artist
Date of Publication:01/01/2009