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Staging Failure? Berta Lask's 'Thomas Münzer' (1925) and the 400th Anniversary of the German Peasants' War

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-382
Number of pages18
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jul 2020
Accepted/In press21 Jul 2020
E-pub ahead of print21 Jul 2020
Published21 Jul 2020


King's Authors


This article examines Berta Lask's drama Thomas Münzer (1925), which was commissioned by the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD) and staged in Eisleben to mark the 400th anniversary of the German Peasants’ War (1524–5) and the execution of Thomas Müntzer. Drawing on cultural memory theory and reading the play as a multi-layered lieu de mémoire, it argues that Lask attempts to recuperate the revolutionary potential of the failed Peasants’ War and harness it to the agenda of the KPD of the 1920s. The article begins by situating Lask's play in a tradition of leftist writing about the Peasants’ War dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. It then considers the ways in which Lask uses historical analogy to create connections between the sixteenth-century uprising and events in post-World War I German political history. Finally, the article explores the techniques used by Lask to create a sense of revolutionary community among her actors and audience.

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