Intellectual alienation in a fragmented society and universe, as illustrated in the work of Wolfgang Koeppen (1906- )

  • Stanley Craven

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This text is concerned with the intellectual and social alienation experienced by a twentieth century German writer (1906 - ).·the alienation begins in the context of German society, but this context is later globalised. The thesis first discusses the social and· intellectual origins and the salient features of this alienated stance, before proceeding to a detailed analysis of its recurring symptoms and
later intensification in each of the author's main works, chronologically surveyed, supported by reference to minor writings. From the novels of the thirties' showing the burgher-artist conflict, and its symbolic dichotomies, the renunciation of traditional German values, and the ambiguous confrontation with new disruptive socio-political forces, we move to the post-war trilogy (1951-54), with its roots in the German social and political experience of the thirties' onwards. The latter, however, is merely a background for the presentation of a much more comprehensive view of the human condition:- a pessimistic vision of the repetitiveness and incorrigibility of this condition, the possibility of the apocalypse, the bankruptcy and ineffectiveness of European religion and culture, the 'absurd' meaninglessness of history, the intellectual artist's position and role(s) in mass-culture and an abstract, technologised mass-society, the central theme of fragmentation - of the structure of reality, society and personality, the artist's relation to this fragmentation, intensified in the twentieth,century.
Style and language are consonant with this world-picture. Many of these
features recur in the travel-books (1958-61); diachronic as well as synchronic approaches characterise the presentation of various modes of contemporary society in America, Russia, France and other European countries. Important features of intellectual alienation are:- the changelessness of historical motifs (e.g. tyranny, aggression), the conventions of burgher society, both old and new forms, the qualitative depreciation and standardisation of living, industrialisation and technology in complex, vulnerable and concemtrated urban societies,
ambiguities of fragmented pluralism. Reference is made .to other travel-writers.
Date of AwardOct 1977
Original languageEnglish


  • Intellectual alienation
  • Wolfgang Koeppen (1906- )

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