Original Research

Vooruitgang en ondergang: historiese dialektiek in twee tekste van Hans Magnus Enzensberger

J.P.C. van den Berg
Literator | Vol 27, No 2 | a192 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v27i2.192 | © 2006 J.P.C. van den Berg | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 July 2006 | Published: 30 July 2006

About the author(s)

J.P.C. van den Berg, Departement Afrikaans & Nederlands & Duits & Frans, Universiteit van die Vrystaat, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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Progress and decline: historical dialect in two texts by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

The interpretation of history as a process of dialectical development has been one of the most important ideas of Marxist philosophy. Whereas earlier Marxists optimistically considered this process as steering inevitably towards a sociopolitical utopia, subsequent thinkers in the Marxist tradition, especially those identified as Neo-Marxists (like Theodor Adorno), had a more pessimistic interpretation of dialectics. Influenced especially by Adorno, German poet and social commentator Hans Magnus Enzensberger uses the concept of “historical dialectics” as a seminal theme in two of his literary works: “Mausoleum: siebenunddreißig Balladen aus der Geschichte des Fortschritts” and “Der Untergang der Titanic”. In these two texts the representation of the ambiguity of “Fortschritt” or historical development presupposes a more pessimistic account of the historical process. This ambiguity is present both in a bird’s-eye view of the historical process (“Mausoleum”), and in the focus on one specific historical incident (“Der Untergang der Titanic”). Enzensberger subsequently continues to consider the role of art within this dialectical context. In this article, both Enzensberger’s literary use of the philosophical concept of historical dialectics and its artistic implications (as identified by him) are examined.


Historical Dialectics; Neo-Marxism And Literature; New Left And Its Cultural Influence; Post-1945 German Literature


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