‘Berlin meant Boys.’ Christopher Isherwood’s retrospective summary of the appeal of Germany for some of the writers of the 1930s set the tone for the rather limited critical evaluation of a very interesting feature of 1930s writing that was to follow. Almost every critical study of Auden, Isherwood and Spender feels obliged to make at least cursory reference to the fact that Germany represented some kind of libidinous homosexual nirvana. Atelling example is Valentine Cunningham’s British Writers of the Thirties. There he writes: ‘Germany was now the place to be: for artistic progressivism, but also because there sunshine and cocaine and sex, especially homosex, were up until Hitler’s intervention in 1933 so freely available. Berlin was a mythic sodom, and a sodomites’ mythic nirvana. The British homosexuals excitedly went there to ‘live’.’ I would like to add to this narrow and biased view some important and less simplistic aspects. I will try to show that the lure of Germany also touches on issues of class, politics and nationality. I will try to present the related transgressions that result from this entanglement not so much as biographical achievements or failures, but explore how they feature in the literary production of the writers of the era.
Homosexuality, Class, Politics and the Lure of Germany in 1930s Writing
The Erotics and Politics of the Soil in Contemporary Poetry
The critique of foundations has been a dominant concern of contemporary philosophy and theory in the last decades. One might trace this interest back to Friedrich Nietzsche’s radical questioning of knowledge and truth. It has produced its most elaborate results in the works of deconstructionist thinkers, among whom one might list Gilles Deleuze. His, admittedly very dense and at least at first glance opaque, excursion on foundations cited above even invokes the term ‘soil’ as an attempt to distinguish grounds and foundations as ultimately metaphysical constructions from their material and empirical bases with whom they interact to form human experience and history.
Helen Blakeman, Rainer Emig, Kai Merten, Alan Munton, Joanne Rendell, Antony Rowland, Robert Sheppard and Stan Smith
Jennifer Birkett, David Bradshaw, John E. Coombes, Andy Croft, Jane de Gay, Rainer Emig, John Fordham, Chris Hopkins, David Margolies, Rick Rylance, Judy Simons, Gay Wachman, Patrick Williams, Mary Joannou and John Lucas
Notes on contributors