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‘Die Hauptsache ist, plump denken lernen’: Brecht’s Herrnburger Bericht as a GDR Learning Play

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356–366
Number of pages11
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Issue number3
Early online date22 Jun 2017
Accepted/In press2017
E-pub ahead of print22 Jun 2017
PublishedJul 2017


  • ‘Die Hauptsache ist, plump denken lernen.’ Brecht’s Herrnburger Bericht {Martin Brady February 2017}

    _Die_Hauptsache_ist_plump_denken_lernen._Brecht_s_Herrnburger_Bericht_Martin_Brady_February_2017_.pdf, 490 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:07 Feb 2017

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

    This is the peer reviewed version of an article published in final form in German Life and Letters, v. 70, issue 3, July 2017 available at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

King's Authors


This essay looks at the Herrnburger Bericht (1951) by Bertolt Brecht and Paul Dessau in terms of its simplicity. Following a discussion of difficulty as modernism’s default position, Brecht and Dessau’s semi-staged cantata is examined as an example of what Walter Benjamin reviewing Brecht’s Dreigroschenroman, affirmatively termed ‘plumpes Denken’. The blatancy of the Herrnburger Bericht is examined as a dialectical response to the ‘Formalismusdebatte’ around Brecht and Dessau’s opera Die Verurteilung des Lukullus of the previous year, as a work for young performers and spectators, and as a distant relative of Brecht’s ‘Lehrstücke’ of the late 1920s (in particular Der Flug der Lindberghs and Das Badener Lehrstück vom Einverständnis). Whilst acknowledging that the Herrnburger Bericht did not achieve the status its author and composer had hoped for, the afterlife of one of its numbers – ‘Bitten der Kinder’ – is noted.

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