Date of Award

Spring 1962

Document Type



Languages & Literature


The last 80 years In Germany have been the setting in which modern German Catholic literature was reborn, took its faltering steps, and grew to recognition by the literary world. It has already been accepted by some critics as possessing the potentialities for developing into a full-fledged movement, one which will in the process of history take its place among the other ‘greats’, such as Sturm und Drang, on the stage of German literature.

The first great Catholic contribution to German literature was given its impetus by Frederich von Spee, the Jesuit priest who fought for Catholic thought and the expression of it in literature during the religious conflicts of the 16th century. The trend toward the rebirth of Catholic literature can be initially attributed to Karl Muth, the founder of the German literary magazine Hochiand in 1903. Muth proposed the analytic question, "Steht die katholische Belletristik auf der Htthe der Zelt?”1 At his time the answer to this question was no, but Muth sounded the trumpet that called Catholic writers from seclusion to fulfill their obligations to Germany and to the world of their day. He demanded from Catholic writers ’’kunstlerische Vollwertigkeit, Zeitnahe, enge Beruhrung mlt dieser Welt, um sie mit dem Geist des Christentums zu durchdringen und sie heim zu holen.”2 If for no other reason Muth's call achieved its purpose in that it gave Catholic writers the courage to tell the world what they knew it needed. No less a problem in the early years of the twentieth century than it is today was the disunity among and within nations in both political and religious spheres. The fears and insecurity in the hearts of the people were reflected by the newly-born school of Catholic writers and other writers whose literary style has been called expressionism. Hermann Bahr, the spirited Catholic critic, defined expressionism as "der Schrei des Menschen nach seiner Seele, den Ruf nach der Einheit von Geist und Leben."3

In expressionism one sees the attempt of an author to reach beyond the purely materialistic aspects of life so emphasized in our times, to rediscover a concrete principle of unity upon which one’s life may be set in order. But before life can be ordered one must know precisely what life is.