By Gibbs J.W.
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Extra resources for Collected works, vol.2
Indd 38 Büchner to Wilhelmine Jaeglé, middle–end of January, 1834, 377. 11/5/2014 5:49:36 PM THE CONFINEMENT OF TRAGEDY 49 Büchner to his family, March 9, 1835, 396–97. 50 Büchner to his family, March 27, 1835, 399. 51 Büchner to his family, July 16, 1835, 408. 52 Steiner, The Death of Tragedy, 274. 53 Büchner to his family, April 5, 1833, 366. 39 54 See Henri Poschmann’s commentary in Büchner, Sämtliche Werke, Briefe, und Dokumente, 2:731. 55 For this interpretation, see Walter Hinck, Gesang der Verbannten: Deutschsprachige Exillyrik von Ulrich von Hutten bis Bertolt Brecht (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2011), 34–37.
Language cannot convey tragic depth or offer escape. Before the penultimate scene, in which Woyzeck murders Marie, the grandmother tells the parable of an orphaned child. Finding itself alone on the earth, the child travels to the moon, sun, and stars, and finds no one; then the child returns to the earth, and remains solitary and abandoned. Hauntingly anaphoric, the anti-fairy-tale prose poem tells of extreme solitude. Perhaps it makes the sense of prison into something absolutely universal. Perhaps it is merely a comment on Büchner’s exile.
Translation amended. 32 Theodor Adorno, “Notes on Kafka,” in Prisms, trans. Samuel Weber and Shierry Weber (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983), 254. indd 20 11/5/2014 5:49:35 PM 1: The Confinement of Tragedy: Between Urfaust and Woyzeck Helmut Walser Smith I N THE DEATH OF TRAGEDY we read that George Steiner considered Goethe’s composition of Urfaust to be the moment when German literature nearly embraced the full force of the tragic but then stepped back from its implications. This essay will follow Steiner’s insight and ask why the tragic was not, circa 1772, fully embraced.