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Reading Shelley's Interventionist
Poetry, 1819-1820

Intervention & Commitment Forever! Shelley in 1819, Shelley in Brecht, Shelley in Adorno, Shelley in Benjamin*

Robert Kaufman, Stanford University

  1. Shelley in 1819—not to mention England in 1819—generates extraordinary legacies for artistic and critical history. Among them has been the question of what constitutes the phenomenon we call interventionist, committed, politically engaged art and criticism. A number of approaches to Shelley's 1819 have emphasized the distance between apparently activist poems--The Mask of Anarchy, for example—and what is deemed Shelley's High Style: presumably aestheticist, representationalist poetry of the "lyric I."1 Some recent analysts of the grounds and processes of engagement find that the Mask and kindred poems successfully, even courageously forego canonical lyric privilege, building or gesturing towards real-world community. Others assess Shelley's interventionism as good-faith (or even bad-faith) failure; they contend that the activist poetry ultimately reveals a baleful formalism and lack of immediate practical consequence that unites it with Shelley's more evidently idealist art. Much of interest has been said on both sides and in between, but it's worth noting that, for understandable reasons, a good deal of this criticism proceeds implicitly or explicitly from Marxian-derived premises that have had great impact on nineteenth- and twentieth-century notions of "commitment." And probably because of yet again-renewed attention across the Humanities, during the last several years, to Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, these Shelley-interpretations have frequently been in dialogue with, or dependent on, Frankfurt School Critical Theory.

  2. Response

    Kaufman's subtle, dialectical negotiations of "retrojection" and radical genealogy are just right for this complex topic, a form of literary history that brilliantly illuminates the importance of the Shelley-Brecht "line."

    The retrojection (the analogizing, arguably anachronistic application to Shelley) of Marxian, Marxian-inflected, and Frankfurt rubric has, with a few exceptions, proceeded without awareness of a remarkably direct literary trajectory that runs in the opposite direction: from Shelley right to the charged debates of the Frankfurt School and artists alongside it. In a further twist, one of the other great figures of twentieth-century commitment, Jean-Paul Sartre, writes his 1947 manifesto of engagement in the immediate aftermath of 1930s and '40s Critical Theory and adjacent artistic constellations. By 1962 it will fall, as if in historical spiral, to an older Adorno to re-represent his and others' positions when he belatedly answers Sartre's "Qu'est-ce que la littérature?" In its German original, "Commitment" (as the relevant Adorno essay is known in English) bears as its title precisely the term for Sartre's doctrine itself, since the same word—engagement—is historically used in German (brought over from French, a few centuries ago) to designate the phenomenon at issue. If space permitted, there'd be a complicated story to tell about Shelley's place in Sartre's literary politics, though Shelley has only the briefest of cameos in "Qu'est-ce que la littérature?" (Sartre actually had been prone to worrying, in his earlier correspondence and notebooks, that Shelley had a greatness, and more troublingly, a handsomeness, that had been denied to Jean-Paul.2) But on to the Germans...

  3. Response

    In Shelley's Satire the comparison is based on recognizing that both Shelley and Brecht are satirists, who thus share certain rhetorical stances, weapons, and assumptions. It was Walter Benjamin who argued that Brecht was a satirist in the (satiric) tradition of Marx himself ("Brecht's Threepenny Novel," Reflections 202).

    Of course the two writers are ultimately separated by the immense gulf of a century of crucial historical difference. Dialectical historical readings of both must take place across this inevtiable divide. With that said, "Skepticism toward Shelleyan hope and idealized 'freedom' in general is a useful antidote for some tempting historical oversimplifications of our present. By the same token, Brecht can help us to appreciate what is truly strange, characteristically Romantic in Shelley's satire: its admixture of represented violence and hope" (Shelley's Satire 104).

    A few critics have briefly discussed Brecht's interest in Shelley. Steven Jones's illuminating Shelley's Satire expands this body of commentary, not only by offering nuanced interpretation of Brecht's recourse to The Mask of Anarchy for his 1947 satire "Der anachronistische Zug oder Freiheit und Democracy," but also by remarking the importance of Brecht's 1938 translation of, and essay on, Shelley's Mask (103-105)3. In a footnote, Jones gestures toward the significance of a crux somewhat beyond the limits of his own study, though happily consonant with it (183-84 n.24). This crux has otherwise been virtually ignored by historians of literature, poetics, and critical theory. Jones notices that one of Benjamin's posthumously-published, extremely influential Baudelaire essays (written in 1938) presents a one-stanza quotation and two-sentence analysis of—along with a gnomic reference to—an apparently unpublished Brecht translation of lines from Shelley's rollicking, "Satanic," anti-Wordsworthian satire Peter Bell the Third4. Jones also observes that Peter Bell the Third's famous line about Hell being "a city much like London" reappears in Brecht's 1941 poem "Nachdenkend über die Hölle" ["On Thinking About Hell"].5 In fact, these materials are part of a larger cache, which plays a fascinating role in both Modernist art and Critical Theory.

  4. In 1936, Brecht, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Wili Bredel become the editors of the new, Moscow-based journal Das Wort [The Word]. Das Wort is established, by leftist exiles from Nazi Germany, as a Popular Front, Communist-led "anti-fascist literary journal"; it publishes texts by everyone from Thomas, Heinrich, and Klaus Mann, to Langston Hughes, Hemingway, Anna Seghers, Lukács, Benjamin, César Vallejo, and others. In June 1937, Das Wort publishes The Mask of Anarchy's final 55 stanzas as translated by the Expressionist poet, playwright, novelist and critic, Alfred Wolfenstein, who had fled Germany for Prague in 1934, and who would soon, upon the Wehrmacht's entry into Czechoslovakia, flee to France until it too would be occupied by Hitler.6 Back in 1922, the publisher Paul Cassirer—Ernst Cassirer's cousin—had published a slim, gorgeous edition of Wolfenstein's Shelley translations: Dichtungen [Poems] of Shelley. (Wolfenstein had also written a translation-treatment of Shelley's play The Cenci for a 1924 Berlin theatrical production.) The Dichtungen had featured excerpts from Adonais, Hellas, and Prometheus Unbound; the entirety of various shorter works (such as "Alastor," "Ode to the West Wind," and "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty"); and a number of still shorter lyrics, including "England in 1819." Though Dichtungen hadn't included the Mask, Wolfenstein, in the Dichtungen's Afterword, quoted liberally from it.

  5. Response

    Again one thinks of Benjamin's cabbalistic angel of history, a useful figurative analog to Shelley's shapes of light and a salutary counterweight to Arnoldian reductionist "angels" (cf. Kipperman.) As Kaufman argues here (and has continued to expand elsewhere), Benjamin's infamous "magic" and Shelley's infamous idealism are both capable of being re-evaluated under a different construction of the aesthetic.

    Indeed, Wolfenstein's Afterword to Shelley's Dichtungen is quite an undertaking: he insists on the radical unity of Shelley's work, the ways that the seemingly idealist and activist modes inhere within each other. He specifically transvalues—or bounces off Swinburne's transvaluation—of the Arnoldian "Shelley the ineffectual angel," conceding that Shelley was angelic, provided one remembers the terrifying nature of angelic presence. Bringing together Prometheus Unbound, the Defence of Poetry, the Mask, various Hölderlin poems, and a string of allusions highly resonant for a Left German tradition that tended to think in terms of Promethean assaults on the heavens (from Goethe's work, to Marx's and Engels's lines about the Parisian Communards having "stormed heaven itself"), Wolfenstein maintains that Shelley's "idealism" is best understood as poetry's fierce judgment of a world built on oppression and suffering (Nachwort 87-94).7

  6. In January 1938, six months after publishing Wolfenstein's Mask translations, Das Wort publishes a lengthy essay on Shelley by Walter Haenisch. Haenisch had left Berlin for Moscow in 1931, to work on the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, the multi-language Collected Works of Marx and Engels. Haenisch's article on Shelley, less literary and more overtly focussed on particulars of socio-historical context than Wolfenstein's 1922 Afterword, nonetheless shares affinities with it, above all, concerning the unity of Shelley's work. Haenisch treats many of the same poems as Wolfenstein, and, like him, stresses the significance of Shelley's having been primarily a lyric poet—a crucial factor, Haenisch indicates, in Marx's and Engels's championing of Shelley. After discussing various poems in relation to their socio-political contexts, Haenisch suggests that an oeuvre encompassing both Prometheus Unbound and the Mask is at one with the project undertaken in Das Kapital. (Such an idealist-materialist coalition, incidentally, develops a parallel history on the Western side of the Atlantic in the same era, and one of its guiding lights is the Shelleyan [and, as Russell A. Berman has recently shown, the very steeped-in-German-philosophy] radical scholar-activist W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois's Shelleyanism is consciously taken up or shared by a range of figures across Left and African-American culture, extending all the way to veteran Popular Front individuals like Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and the labor organizer Ella Reeve "Mother" Bloor, committed Shelleyans all.8)

  7. So in 1937 and early 1938, Brecht and Benjamin are reading this Shelley-discourse in a journal they're both associated with and for which Brecht, in fact, serves as a principal editor. In June 1938, Benjamin joins Brecht in Svendborg, Denmark, where the two work together for several months, sharing ideas and manuscripts. In July, Brecht writes and gives to Benjamin a group of essays intended for Das Wort; there is substantial evidence that Brecht talks through the essays with Benjamin as (or just after) he drafts them.9 Some of these essays, which take issue with Lukácsian realism and defend the critical value of experimental art, have been familiar to Anglo-American readers since 1977, when they appeared in Aesthetics and Politics.10 Brecht went ahead and submitted the essays to Das Wort, which never published them.11 But in addition to fears about rocking the Orthodox boat, the other editors of Das Wort may also have declined to publish Brecht's essays in order to protect Brecht himself. If so, they had good reason; which is to say, this story's materials get grimmer: a few months after Das Wort had published Walter Haenisch's January 1938 Shelley essay, Haenisch became one among legions falsely accused, amidst the general insanity in Moscow, of "Trotskyite" and/or "Social-Fascist" espionage. Haenisch was denounced and executed as a "people's enemy."12

  8. Response

    The most telling absence in Brecht's translation of the Mask are the most blatantly "idealist" passages in Shelley, the lines on the allegorical Hope and the symbolist Shape, from what is arguably the crux of Shelley's original poem.
    --- --- ---
    Kaufman's response to the response:
    A full consideration of adjacent Brecht texts, not possible here because of reasons of space, would establish that the omission of the Mask's dream-frame and its more "idealist" vocabulary expresses Brecht's immediately tactical rather than final approach to the question of poetry's "idealism." This is a matter on which Brecht himself will provide extraordinarily interesting evidence when he offers an unexpectedly positive reception, in the immediate aftermath of his reencounter with Shelley, of what is undoubtedly a go-for-broke case of lyric "idealism": Wordsworthian lyric aura. In Brecht's own eyes, his own more-than-a-century-later situation certainly separates him from certain aspects of Shelley's style, and perhaps above all from aspects of Shelley's diction; but Brecht elsewhere readily concedes that he has his own, necessary poetic "idealism," and that the dream-frame or dream-vision in general is far from anathema to his conception of a committed, engaged, and/or interventionist aesthetic.

    One of these unpublished Brecht essays of July 1938—which unfortunately isn't included in Aesthetics and Politics,13 and which has never appeared in translation—is "Weite und Vielfalt der realistischen Schreibweise" ["Range and Diversity of the Realist Literary Mode"] (Werke 22.1: 423-434 and 22.2: 1035-1037nn.).14 The essay's central exhibit is Brecht's quotation, translation, and analysis of 25 stanzas from Shelley's Mask. (The crackling translation's almost absolute literalness departs intriguingly from Wolfenstein's Das Wort translation of the Mask the previous year.15) The "great revolutionary English poet P.B. Shelley," Brecht claims while beginning his translation-commentary, demonstrates how a vital fusion of aesthetic experiment, speculative imagination, and song may lead to, rather than away from, critical mimesis of the real (the latter being virtually synonymous, throughout "Weite und Vielfalt," with commitment) (Werke 22.1: 424-425, 430, 432-433; emphasis in original: "den grossen revolutionären englischen Dichter P.B. Shelley").

  9. At the same time that he translates and analyzes the Mask, Brecht also translates nine stanzas from Part III of Peter Bell the Third, which apparently remain unpublished throughout Brecht's lifetime.16 Brecht immediately gives his Mask essay-translation and the Peter Bell translation to Benjamin; Benjamin copies out the Peter Bell stanzas, preserving them in the pages we know as the Passagen-Werk or Arcades Project.17 As already mentioned, Benjamin also quotes, and briefly comments on, Peter Bell's "Hell is a city much like London" stanza in his "The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire"—an essay whose manuscript Brecht in turn reads and copies out portions of for the fragments he's writing on Baudelaire.18 The Brecht-Benjamin interchange, amounting almost to collaboration, is so intertwined that it's hard to tell the order of influence among these July and August 1938 writings. Limits of space allow me to say here only that a shared set of subsequently-celebrated images and ideas appears in Brecht's Shelley essay, Benjamin's Baudelaire essay, and then Brecht's Baudelaire meditations and later poetry.

  10. More remarkable still is an extended passage on Shelley and Baudelaire in the Passagen-Werk; based on Brecht's translation of the nine Peter Bell stanzas, it's clearly the fuller version of the super-compressed but better-known comparison of Shelley and the French poet that Benjamin offers in "The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire." In the Passagen-Werk entry "Zur Bilderflucht in der Allegorie" ["On image-flight in allegory"], Benjamin more extensively develops the comparison of Shelley and Baudelaire. The remarks gesture toward a sense of how the two poets' particular approaches to allegory illuminate the mode's modern fate in general:

    The incisive effect [of Peter Bell] depends... on the fact that Shelley's grasp [Griff] of allegory makes itself felt. It is this grasp that is missing in Baudelaire. This grasp, which makes palpable the distance of the modern poet [Baudelaire] from allegory, is precisely what enables allegory [in Shelley] to incorporate into itself the most immediate realities...—Shelley rules over the allegory, Baudelaire is ruled by it. (Arcades 370, translation slightly emended; emphasis in original translation ["grasp"]); Das Passagen-Werk I: 468 [Gesammelte Schriften vol. V.1: 468] (emphasis in original ["Griff"])

    Benjamin says a good deal more, but his point isn't to proclaim Shelley the greater poet. He implies instead that a turn in modernity and the history of aesthetic "aura" has made Shelley's critical allegoresis unavailable to Baudelaire. Baudelaire is too distanced from—from what? Benjamin's answer is that Baudelaire feels himself too distant from auratic distance itself; the auratic distance linked to lyric poetry and aesthetic autonomy is, to put it differently, what generates the allegoresis that Shelley can still undertake. The rest of Benjamin's analysis is well known: Baudelaire's intermittently critical triumph will be to make lyric poetry sing—severely and intensely—its own apparent impossibility in the age of art's mechanical or technical reproducibility.

  11. While this is not the place for full-scale treatment of allegory's crisis in Baudelaire (and Benjamin's ideas about allegory's career in modern poetics thereafter), a few words are in order. Allegory is of course the charged term whose modern reprioritization over symbol stems in no small measure from Benjamin's 1928 study of the German play of lamentation, the Trauerspiel.19 For Benjamin, allegory's initial point of departure is that it represents the broken, ruptured truth of attempts at prematurely "symbolic" reconciliation. Hence allegory signifies its own necessarily non-identical—thus potentially critical and constructionist—character. Suffice to say here that the Passagen-Werk section about Shelley, Baudelaire, and allegory is one of the key instances where Benjamin articulates his formal theory (of allegory's proto-critical and constructionist nature) together with an historical instance of a lyric poet whom Benjamin and his circle definitely regard as progressive and committed: whom they regard, indeed, as den grossen revolutionären Dichter.20

  12. The 1938 matrix of Shelley, Baudelaire, and allegory generates two trajectories that presently concern us: towards the later art of Brecht, and the philosophical aesthetics of Adorno. Brecht, already having brooded over the poetic kindling, finds it reignited when, in his already-strange Los Angeles exile, he belatedly learns (in 1941) of Benjamin's suicide at the Spanish border. The news contributes importantly to the devastating Hollywoodelegien [Hollywood Elegies] and texts bound chronologically, thematically, and formally to them (some of which are gathered in the Werke's Gedichte im Exil section). It's rarely been noticed that, among these texts, not only "Nachdenkend über die Hölle" ["On Thinking About Hell"] is indebted to the figure that that poem calls "mein Bruder Shelley." In fact, the larger groupings of related poems and drafts—which include three texts explicitly focussed on Benjamin's suicide—are saturated with themes, directly-translated quotations, paraphrases, and images from Shelley: especially from Peter Bell and the Mask, but from the Defence of Poetry and other texts as well.

  13. Just as significant, in these poems, are Brecht's very complex treatments of tonal register, his stereoscopically-introduced-and-mutually-dissolving images, and a syntax of deceptive ease and elegance whose unreeling builds rather than releases tension.21 All of which, Brecht signals time and again, come in no small part from that Romantic source, Brecht's "Bruder Shelley," who seemed to have found political militance inseparable from lyric impulse and aesthetic autonomy. It is not overshooting the mark to say that Brecht's almost too-terrible decision—to write wartime elegy that could be taken for bitter satire, and vice versa—should count as powerful, and intriguingly late Modernist, evidence for the acute readings various critics have offered of Peter Bell the Third's historical originality: its relentless insistence on thinking modern lyric and satiric impulse together, and on thinking both in relation to modern poetry's ways of taking history's measure.22 It seems barely necessary to add that Brecht's efforts reinvent, via Shelley, exactly the critical possibility Benjamin had seen as only fitfully available—almost against itself, certainly less definitively than in Shelley, and perhaps, Benjamin had thought, for what had been its historical endgame—in Baudelaire.

  14. Response

    "Shelley-infused" usefully expresses a certain kind of intertextuality in literary history that goes beyond "influence"--how (in the culinary sense of infused oils) something of the material "essence" of one poet's work can be captured and transmitted through another's work even in the absence of obvious allusion.

    Brecht gives the Shelley-infused poems to Hanns Eisler, who works with the Hollywoodelegien and who then, one Los Angeles night in October 1942, sits down at the piano and premieres these impossible lieder for an audience consisting of Brecht, Hans Winge, and Herbert Marcuse. Brecht only ups the ante by testily noting Eisler's distressing tendency, when Eisler "speaks about, [though] not when he composes" the settings, to drop the elegies' significance down a rhetorical or formal-stylistic notch (Bertolt Brecht Journals 257-258).23 That's a fantastic micro-dispute to consider, since Eisler, far from undertaking a wholesale genre-stripping or programmatic levelling of still-too-high and auratic elegiac verse, instead so virtuosically runs Schubertian and Schumannesque lieder, French chanson, and Schönbergian twelve-tone composition in and out of one another, that it is hard to miss the settings' recognizably Modernist tour de force of newly-achieved form and voice. It's as if the (proto-post-Modern) "levelling" holistically occurs in what Brecht hears as Eisler's irritatingly interpretive-judgmental comments, so that the work itself can then move on to enact its real, critical desideratum: Modernist virtuosity in the exploration, coordination, and imaginative synthesis of extremely diverse literary-musical materials and dauntingly various stylistic currents. Brecht acknowledges as much when he rather bluntly insists, against Eisler's alleged murmuring about the poems' mere occasionality or jottedness, on the Hollywoodelegien's compressed monumentality and gravitas: "these are full-scale poems" and "in fact the compositions are probably really important as music too" (Bertolt Brecht Journals 238).24

  15. On the page and in Eisler's settings, the poems exert a profound influence, across at least three continents, on late Modernist poetry and, to a lesser degree, music composition. Indeed, with their complicated reception-histories, the Hollywoodelegien and the poems immediately connected to them testify to the unexpectedly continued, vibrant existence of late Modernism, well into the era commonly called post-Modern (and in which Modernism is framed as canonical or reactionary object of critique).25 The very fact of the elegies' Modernist aesthetic and declaredly critical-Romantic lineage, which for Brecht seems indissolubly linked to the poems' unblinking view of commitment's unexpected paths in art and life, would appear substantially to reconfigure recent periodizations and style-characterizations of post-Modernism and its much maligned antecedent.

  16. That is, Brecht's late enterprise entails the non-parodic revivification of an ostensibly passé, auratic, "lyric-aesthetic" poetics, a revivification Brecht in part accomplishes by returning to the Shelleyan-Baudelairean imperative that lyric critically reimagine itself. Though not exactly hermetic, Brecht's negative-sideways, backward-forward path towards post-auratic aura effectively identifies lyric vocation with—or as fuel for—Marx's old "ruthless critique of everything existing," which in its turn casts a cold eye upon lyric's critico-political pretensions. Brecht's structuring of this fruitful and constitutive tension between aura and protopolitical critique amounts, astonishingly enough (since it's after all Brecht that we're talking about), to a reconjuration of Left Enlightenment aesthetics from elegy ash. Recognition of such a project in his later poetry should begin to unsettle long-standard accounts of how Brecht (or Benjamin, for that matter) alternately models an exchange-value Left cynicism, and a mechanical-reproductionist, exhibition-value "Avant-Gardist anti-aesthetic" (both of which, in solidarity with radically-intended post-Modernist art and theory, oppose themselves to a more auratic, Romantically-derived Modernism).26

  17. Meanwhile, Benjamin's reflections on Shelley, Baudelaire and allegory will serve as one of several seeds for Adorno's attempts, after Benjamin's death, critically to preserve and reanimate his friend's work, and to reassess earlier disagreements (including Adorno's and Benjamin's disagreement over the quality of Brecht's Shelley translations themselves).27 In a gestural shorthand, sometimes explicitly and more often by implication, Adorno writes the Shelley-Bild into and underneath a key series of texts: "Lyric Poetry and Society," "Commitment," "Parataxis," Aesthetic Theory.28 He effectively coordinates Brecht's and Benjamin's Shelley with a range of resonance and correspondance that includes Benjaminian angelicism, storm-images for allegory, and projection of "critical" lyric. This Shelley participates in what may be Adorno's own most enduring legacy, the attempt to uncover and work out a crucial distinction between aesthetic and aestheticization.

  18. Impelled by Benjamin's thinking about allegory, Adorno finds an anti-essentialist, anti-aestheticist constructivism at the heart of Immanuel Kant's aesthetics and the Kantian Critical Philosophy as a whole, which, Adorno suggests, remains surprisingly central to Marxian dialectics and kindred efforts in critical thought. Underlying Adorno's Kantian account is the aesthetic's quasi-conceptual and thus quasi-social quality. The aesthetic (with lyric traditionally at its apex), while looking like conceptual-objective, "useful," content-determined thought or activity, only "looks like" them, only mimes them at the level of form. Aesthetic thought-experience in some way precedes conceptual-objective, content-and-use-oriented thought; in that sense, the aesthetic is "formal" because, rather than being determined by, it provides the form for conceptual, "objective" thought or cognition. Aesthetic thought-experience remains "free" (at least, relative to more properly conceptual thought) from pre-existent concepts or cognitive rules. In the Kantian lexicon, this makes the aesthetic a site of "reflective" rather than "determinant" judgment. The aesthetic, then, serves as mold or frame for the construction of "cognition in general," as Kant puts it.

  19. The aesthetic serves also as formal and imaginative engine for new, experimental (because previously non-existent) concepts. With its quasi-conceptual and quasi-social character ("a mist, a light, an image"; "all...empty air" [Mask 2.103, 121]), the aesthetic can provide a prerequisite of critical thought by offering formal means for developing new (not even necessarily utopian) concepts. Such concepts may bring to light presently-obscured aspects of substantive social reality (aspects of society not already determined by society's own conceptual view of itself). The operative notion is that thought determined by society—by society's own concepts of itself: status-quo, reigning concepts of society—can never give a satisfactory picture of that society. This finally resolves into a fundamental strain of Adorno's aesthetics, to which Shelley contributes far more than an undersong, and that can be expressed as follows: Lyric experiment helps construct and make available the intellectual-emotional apparatus for accessing, and to that extent helps make available the social material of, "the new" ("the new" here being understood ultimately as the not-yet-grasped features of the mode of production and, in fact, of all that is emergent in the social). This constructivist theory and practice sees that experiment in lyric—lyric as experiment—helps make new areas of the modern fitfully available to perception in the first place. Constructivism by itself guarantees neither progressive subjectivity nor commitment to emancipatory politics. But this construction of perceptual or cognitive capability is prerequisite to such subjectivity, critical thought, and commitment.29

  20. There's one last, decidedly formal piece to this constructivist puzzle of Shelleyan commitment. Adorno hints that that piece is called "Keats." But it'll have to wait for the panel on "Keats's Interventionist Odes of 1819."30

Works Cited

Adorno, Theodor. Aesthetic Theory. Ed. and trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997.

---. Ästhetische Theorie. Eds. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1970.

---. "Commitment." Notes to Literature. Vol. 2. Trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen. New York: Columbia UP, 1992. 76-94.

Adorno, Theodor W. and Walter Benjamin. Briefwechsel 1928-1940. Ed. Henri Lonitz. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1994.

---. The Complete Correspondence, 1928-1940. Ed. Henri Lonitz. Trans. Nicholas Walker. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1999.

---. "Engagement." Die Neue Rundschau 73:1 (1962). Rpt. in Noten zur Literatur. Vol. 3. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1965. 109-135. And rpt. in Gesammelte Schriften. Vol. 11. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann with the cooperation of Gretel Adorno, Susan Buck-Morss, and Klaus Schultz. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1974. 409-430.

Aptheker, Herbert. "W.E.B. Du Bois--A Man for Peace." Racism, Imperialism & Peace: Selected Essays by Herbert Aptheker. Eds. Marvin J. Berlowitz and Carol E. Morgan. Studies in Marxism 21. Minneapolis: MEP Publications, 1987.

Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project. Trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge, MA: Belknapp Press, 1999.

---. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. Trans. Harry Zohn. London: New Left Books, 1973.

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---. "Conversations with Brecht." Understanding Brecht. Trans. Anna Bostock. London: New Left Books, 1973. 105-121.

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---. "Gespräche mit Brecht." Versuche über Brecht. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1966. 117-135.

--. The Origin of German Tragic Drama. Trans. John Osborne. London: Verso, 1977.

---. "The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire." Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. Trans. Harry Zohn. London: New Left Books, 1973.

---. Das Passagen-Werk. 2 vols. 1972. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1982.

--. Illuminationen: Ausgewählte Schriften. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1961.

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---. Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1963.

Berman, Russell A. "Du Bois and Wagner: Race, Nation, and Culture between the United States and Germany." The German Quarterly 70.2 (1997): 123-135.

Bloor, Ella Reeve. We Are Many. New York: International Publishers, 1940.

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---. "Der anachronistische Zug oder Freiheit und Democracy." Gesammelte Werke. Vol. 4. Ed. Elisabeth Hauptmann in cooperation with Rosemarie Hill. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1967. 943-949.

---. "The Anachronistic Procession or Freedom and Democracy." Poems: 1913-1956. Eds. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. Trans. John Willett, Ralph Manheim, et. al. London: 1987. 409-414.

---. Arbeitsjournal. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973.

---. Bertholt Brecht Journals. Ed. John Willett. Trans. Hugh Rorrison. New York: Routledge, 1993.

---. Bertolt Brecht Letters. Trans. Ralph Manheim and ed. John Willett. London: Methuen, 1990.

---. Briefe. 2 vols. Ed. Günter Glaeser, in cooperation with Wolfgang Jeske and Paul-Gerhard Wenzlaff. 1998. Werke: Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe. 30 vols. Eds. Werner Hecht, Jan Knopf, Werner Mittenzwei, and Klaus-Detlef Müller. Berlin: Aufbau/Suhrkamp, 1989-1998.

---. "Freiheit und Democracy." Werke: Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe. Vol. 15. Ed. Jan Knopf and Brigitte Bergheim, in cooperation with Annette Ahlborn, Günter Berg, and Michael Duchardt. Berlin: Aufbau/Suhrkamp, 1993. 183-188.

---. Gedichte. Vol. 4. Eds. Jan Knopf and Brigitte Bergheim, in cooperation with Annette Ahlborn, Günter Berg, and Michael Duchardt. 1993. Werke: Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe. 30 vols. Eds. Werner Hecht, Jan Knopf, Werner Mittenzwei, and Klaus-Detlef Müller. Berlin: Aufbau/Suhrkamp, 1989-1998.

---. Gesammelte Werke. 20 vols. Ed. Suhrkamp Verlag in cooperation with Elisabeth Hauptmann. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1967.

---. Journale. Vol. 1. Eds. Marianne Conrad and Werner Hecht, in cooperation with Herta Ramthun. 1994. Werke: Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe. 30 vols. Eds. Werner Hecht, Jan Knopf, Werner Mittenzwei, and Klaus-Detlef Müller. Berlin: Aufbau/Suhrkamp, 1989-1998.

---. "Nachdenkend über die Hölle" ["Nachdenkend, wie ich höre"]. Werke: Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe. Vol. 15. Ed. Jan Knopf and Brigitte Bergheim, in cooperation with Annette Ahlborn, Günter Berg, and Michael Duchardt. Berlin: Aufbau/Suhrkamp, 1993. 46.

---. "On Thinking about Hell." Poems: 1913-1956. Eds. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. Trans. John Willett, Ralph Manheim, et. al. London: 1987. 367.

---. Poems: 1913-1956. Eds. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. Trans. John Willett, Ralph Manheim, et. al. London: Routledge, 1987.

---. Schriften. Eds. Inge Gellert and Werner Hecht in cooperation with Marianne Conrad, Sigmar Gerund and Benno Slupianek. 1993. Werke: Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe. 30 vols. Eds. Werner Hecht, Jan Knopf, Werner Mittenzwei, and Klaus-Detlef Müller. Berlin: Aufbau/Suhrkamp, 1989-1998.

--."Weite und Vielfalt der realistischen Schreibweise." Brecht Versuche 13 (1954): 97-107. Rpt. in Gesammelte Werke. Vol. 8 Ed. Suhrkamp Verlag in cooperation with Elisabeth Hauptmann. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1967. 340-49. Also rpt. in Werke. Vols. 22.1 and 22.2. Eds. Werner Hecht, Jan Knopf, Werner Mittenzwei, and Klaus-Detlef Müller. Berlin: Aufbau/Suhrkamp, 1988. 423-34 and 1035-1037nn, respectively.

---. Werke: Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe. 30 vols. Eds. Werner Hecht, Jan Knopf, Werner Mittenzwei, and Klaus-Detlef Müller. Berlin: Aufbau/Suhrkamp, 1989-1998.

Brown, Russell E. "Alfred Wolfenstein." Expressionismus als Literatur: Gesammelte Studien. Ed. Wolfgang Rothe. Berne: Francke Verlag, 1969.

Bunge, Hans. Fragen Sie mehr über Brecht. Hanns Eisler im Gespräch. Leipzig: n.p. 1975.

Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Trans. Michael Shaw. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984.

Chandler, James. England in 1819: The Politics of Literary Culture and the Case of Romantic Historicism. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998.

Cox, Jeffrey N. Poetry and Politics in the Cockney School: Keats, Shelley, Hunt and Their Circle. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.

Cronin, Richard. Shelley's Poetic Thoughts. New York: St. Martin's, 1981.

Davis, Ossie and Ruby Dee. "Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum." In Other Words. PBS. Emmalyn II Productions. 15 January 1986.

Du Bois, W. E. B. "The Great Tradition in English Literature." National Guardian (March 8, 1954). Rpt. in Complete Published Works of W. E .B. Du Bois. 38 vols. Ed. Herbert Aptheker. White Plains, N.Y.: Kraus-Thomson, 1982-1986. Newspaper Columns. Vol. 2. 1986. 924-925.

Die Expressionismusdebatte: Materialien zu einer marxistischen Realismuskonzeption. Ed. Hans-Jürgen Schmitt. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973.

Fischer, Peter. Alfred Wolfenstein: Der Expressionismus und die verendende Kunst. Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1968.

Haenisch, Walter. "Percy Bysshe Shelley." Das Wort Heft 1 [Issue 1] (January 1938): 96-110.

Jay, Martin. The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950. 1973. 2nd. ed. Berkeley: U of California P, 1996.

Jones, Steven E. "Shelley's Satire of Succession and Brecht's Anatomy of Regression: `The Mask of Anarchy' and Der anachronistische Zug oder Freiheit und Democracy." Shelley: Poet and Legislator of the World. Eds. Betty T. Bennett and Stuart Curran. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996. 193-200.

---. Shelley's Satire: Violence, Exhortation, and Authority. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois UP, 1994.

Kaufman, Robert. "Everybody Hates Kant: Blakean Formalism and the Symmetries of Laura Moriarty." Modern Language Quarterly 61:1 (2000): 131-155.

---. "A Future for Modernism: Barbara Guest's Recent Poetry." American Poetry Review 29.4 (2000): 11-16.

---. "Negatively Capable Dialectics: Keats, Vendler, Adorno, and the Theory of the Avant-Garde." Critical Inquiry 27:2 (2001): 354-384.

---. "Red Kant; Or, The Persistence of the Third Critique in Adorno and Jameson." Critical Inquiry 26.4 (2000): 682-724.

Keach, William. Shelley's Style. New York: Methuen, 1984.

Leavis, F. R. Revaluation: Tradition & Development in English Poetry. 1936. London: Chatto & Windus, 1956.

Pike, David. German Writers in Soviet Exile, 1933-1945. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1982.

Prawer, S. S. Comparative Literary Studies: An Introduction. London: Duckworth, 1973.

Rubinstein, Annette T. The Great Tradition in English Literature: From Shakespeare to Shaw. New York: Citadel, 1954.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Carnets de la drôle de guerre: Septembre 1939-Mars 1940. Ed. Arlette Elkaïm-Sartre. Paris: Gallimard, 1995.

---. Lettres au Castor et à quelques autres. 2 vols. Ed. Simone de Beauvoir. Paris: Gallimard, 1983.

---. "Qu'est-ce que la littérature?" Situations II. Paris: Gallimard, 1948. 55-330.

---. "What is Literature?" "What Is Literature?" and Other Essays. Trans. Steven Ungar. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1988. 21-245.

---. Witness to My Life: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvoir, 1926-1939. Trans. Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992.

---. War Diaries: Notebooks from a Phoney War: November 1939-March 1940. Trans. Quintin Hoare. London: Verso, 1984.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. The Mask of Anarchy. Shelley's Prose and Poetry. Ed. Donald H. Reiman and Sharon B. Powers. New York: Norton: 1977.

---. "Part Third: Hell." Peter Bell the Third. Shelley's Prose and Poetry. Ed. Donald H. Reiman and Sharon B. Powers. New York: Norton: 1977. 330, l.147. {?}

Siebenhaar, Klaus. "Ästhetik und Utopie: Das Shelley-Bild Alfred Wolfensteins: Anmerkungen zum Verhältnis von Dichtung und Gesellschaft im Spätexpressionismus." Preis der Vernunft: Literatur und Kunst zwischen Aufklärung, Widerstand und Anpassung. Festschrift für Walter Huder. Eds. Klaus Siebenhaar and Hermann Haarmann. Berlin: Medusa Verlag, 1982. 121-133.

Stammberger, Gabriele and Michael Peschke. Gut angekommen, Moskau: Das Exil der Gabriele Stammberger, 1932-1954. Errinerungen und Dokumente. Berlin: Basis Druck, 1999.

Walter, Hans-Albert. Deutsche Exilliteratur 1933-1950. 6 vols. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1978-1984.

Wasserman, Earl R. Shelley: A Critical Reading. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1971.

Wolfenstein, Alfred. Nachwort. Dichtungen by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Trans. Alfred Wolfenstein. Berlin: Paul Cassirer, 1922. 87-94. Rpt. as "Nachwort zu Dichtungen von Shelley." Werke. Vol. 4. Eds. Hermann Haarmann and Günter Holtz. Mainz: Hase & Hoehler, 1993. 210-215.

---. Vermischte Schriften: Ästhetik, Literatur , Politik. Eds. Hermann Haarmann, Katen Tieth, and Olaf Müller. Werke. Vol. 4. Eds. Hermann Haarmann and Günter Holtz. Mainz: Hase & Hoehler, 1993.

Wolfenstein, Alfred, trans. "Sie Sind Wenige--Ihr Seid Viel!" ["They are Few--You are Many!"] by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Das Wort Heft 6 [Issue 6] (June 1937): 63-65.


*For their responses to earlier versions of this essay and/or assistance with translations, I am indebted to Adam Casdin, Norma Cole, Geoffrey Galt Harpham, Stephen Hinton, Robert Hullot-Kentor, Tamara Levitz, and Arthur Strum. Any mistakes are the author's own.

1.  See Shelley, The Mask of Anarchy 301-310.

Shelley wrote the Mask in response to the infamous "Peterloo" or "Manchester Massacre" of 16 August 1819, in which a mass meeting of some 60,000 people--demanding parliamentary and social reform--was attacked by armed militia and cavalry. Peterloo subsequently became a rallying cry for parliamentary-reform movements, as well as for Britain's nascent labor movement.

2.  For the more youthful, anxiously self-conscious meditations on Shelley, see Sartre, Lettres au Castor et à quelques autres I: 14, available in English in Witness to My Life 7-8; and Sartre, Carnets de la drôle de guerre 270, in English in War Diaries 74. War Diaries translates the now-superseded 1983 French edition of Satre's "Phoney-War" Carnets, which had not included--as the 1995 French edition would--the September-October 1939 entries. Hence the discrepancy in the subtitle-dates of Carnets de la drôle guerre and War Diaries.

3.  See too Jones's "Shelley's Satire of Succession and Brecht's Anatomy of Regression: `The Mask of Anarchy' and Der anachronistische Zug oder Freiheit und Democracy." As Jones indicates, some earlier English-language critics had also made valuable contributions towards charting the Brecht-Shelley relationship; cf., e. g., S. S. Prawer 92-96 and Richard Cronin 39-42.

See also Bertolt Brecht, "Der anachronistische Zug oder Freiheit und Democracy," in Gesammelte Werke 4: 943-949; the text is translated as "The Anachronistic Procession or Freedom and Democracy" in Poems 409-414. In the later and more comprehensive German edition--the Bertolt Brecht Werke: Grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe--the poem appears under the title "Freiheit und Democracy" 15: 183-188. Unless otherwise indicated, all further references to Brecht's German texts are to the Werke: Grosse kommentierte edition and are cited by volume and page. All translations of Brecht, unless making specific reference to Willett's and Manheim's Poems or unless otherwise noted, are my own.

4.  See "Das Paris des Second Empire bei Baudelaire" in Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: Ein Lyriker im Zeitalter des Hochkapitalismus 63 n.49 (vol. I.2, 562 n.51of Gesammelte Schriften). In English, see "The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire" in Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism 59 n.48. For the Benjamin-Adorno disagreements over "Das Paris des Second Empire bei Baudelaire" see my n.27 below.

5. Shelley, Peter Bell the Third, "Part Third: Hell," 330, l.147; Brecht Werke 15 [Gedichte 5]: 46 and Poems 367. In the Brecht Werke, the poem is known by its first words, "Nachdenkend, wie ich höre," whereas in the older Gesammelte Werke (4 [Gedichte]: 830), it is formally titled "Nachdenkend über die Hölle," by which title it is still often discussed in the critical literature, even where the later, Werke text, is cited.

6. Wolfenstein's translation of the Mask stanzas is the first text in the "Übersetzungen" ["Translations"] section of Das Wort's June, 1937 issue. The translated Mask excerpt is titled "Sie Sind Wenige--Ihr Seid Viel!" ["They are Few--You are Many!"]; an introductory note tells Das Wort readers that the stanzas come from the last part of Shelley's Mask, and that they have been translated by Wolfenstein.

The German title (and text) translates but reverses the Mask's celebrated, twice-repeated line addressing English workers (a line Shelley simultaneously intends as description, incantation, and exhortation/inspiration): "Ye are many--they are few." (In Shelley's text, these words appear at l.155 and again in the poem's final line [l. 372]). Wolfenstein apparently changes Shelley's word order in an attempt to preserve, in German, what he perceives as the essence of the Mask's rhyme-scheme, syntax, and overall rhythm. The reversal may also reflect Wolfenstein's and Das Wort's political judgment about the importance of ending--that is, ending first the bold-faced, all-capitalized, exclamatory title given to the Mask-excerpt; then, the repeated phrase within the translated stanzas; finally, the translated text as a whole--with the "many," rather than the ruling class's "few."

7.  The Vermischte Schriften, along with the poems, short stories, novels, and plays collected in the other volumes of Wolfenstein's Werke, reveal Wolfenstein's writings to have been thoroughly saturated by his readings in, and responses to, Shelley. For a valuable discussion of how Shelley infuses Wolfenstein's attempts to couple, or put into dialogue, an experimental poetics and a committed Left politics, see Siebenhaar. See too Fischer and Brown.

8.  On Du Bois's passionate Shelleyanism, see the brief published comments of Herbert Aptheker (once Du Bois's younger colleague and close friend, and eventually, editor of the 40-plus volumes of Du Bois's collected writings) 204. (Aptheker has indicated, in correspondence and conversation with the present author, that the above-cited commentary on Du Bois and Shelley represents "only the tip of the iceberg" of Du Bois's recurrent recourse to Shelley.) See also Du Bois's stress on the exemplary status of the second-generation English Romantic poets: "... Byron, Shelley, and Keats, lord, gentleman and cockney, all were social revolutionists." [Du Bois here paraphrases, and adds his distinct emphasis to, a formulation in the book he is reviewing, Annette T. Rubinstein's Marxian-humanist The Great Tradition in English Literature.] On Du Bois's initial attractions to, and ultimately radical interpretations of, German philosophical idealism, see Russell A. Berman's important "Du Bois and Wagner."

See too Ella Reeve Bloor's autobiography, We Are Many and Ossie Davis's and Ruby Dee's "Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum," with its deliberate inclusion and performance of Shelley in tribute to—as the program consistently articulates it—King's militant radicalism.

9.  Until the publication of Brecht's Arbeitsjournal, the best-known evidence was probably the June-August 1938 section of "Gespräche mit Brecht" in Benjamin, Versuche über Brecht 117-135; "Conversations with Brecht" in Benjamin, Understanding Brecht 105-121. The Brecht Werke's generous editorial notes add a good deal to the picture; see citations in my n.17 below.

10.  The editors of Aesthetics and Politics, and other commentators, have asserted that Brecht was only a figurehead for, or, at most, nominally involved in editing, Das Wort. See, e. g., Aesthetics and Politics 62. Brecht's journals and letters, as well as some of Benjamin's recollections (and Benjamin's own contributions to Das Wort) show this to be an inadequate overall analysis. In fact, Brecht's attitudes towards his participation in Das Wort ranged from frustration, cynicism, and disgust, to cautious enthusiasm, to energetic determination to shape the journal more towards his liking (including through active solicitation of manuscripts from writers around the world).

See Brecht's correspondence about Das Wort in the Brecht Werke 28 [Briefe 1]: 562 and 569, and 29 [Briefe 2]: 9, 13, 19, 20, 21, 25-26, 36, 38, 64, 77, 81, 83-84, 101, 106-107, 126, and 147-148. (Most of these letters can be found in the English translation of an earlier edition of Brecht's letters, Brecht Briefe, see Bertolt Brecht Letters 163, 235, 239, 240, 246, 247, 248, 256, 259, 260, 271, 276, 279, 289, 290, 295, 315, 607, 610, and 611.)

See too, for further evidence of Brecht's ambivalent attitudes towards, and dealings with, Das Wort, the Brecht journal entries cited in my n.17 below.

For a measured assessment of the relevant materials and controversies, see Pike, esp. Chapter 8, "The Literary Popular Front, Part I: Das Wort."

11.  They are now all available, with ample editorial notes, in the Brecht Werke 22.1 and 22.2 [Schriften 2.1 and 2.2].

12.  See the account of Haenisch's fate given by his widow in Gut angekommen, Moskau. Also on Haenisch, see Walter 2: 525-526 n. 4 and 4: 422.

13.  Nor had it been included in a kindred German volume that preceded Aesthetics and Politics, Die Expressionismusdebatte.

14.  "Weite und Vielfalt" was first published, some sixteen years after its composition, in the series Brecht Versuche. The essay was also published--before the 1989-1998 Werke's appearance--in Brecht's Gesammelte Werke 8 [Schriften 2]: 340-349.

15.  Brecht is of course often described, by others and himself, as the Left's plumpes Denken ["crude thinking," "crude thought," "vulgar thought"] poet, over against Left writers like Wolfenstein who exhibit a penchant for visionary, sometimes arcane or delicate, Symbolist esotericism. It therefore seems entirely natural that Brecht chooses to render Shelley's lines far more literally than had Wolfenstein. Yet, paradoxically, it is Wolfenstein's translation that yields the familiarly Popular Front verse-cadence of ringing hammerbeat, along with a rhetorical thematics that quickly thins to weak abstraction. Meanwhile, Brecht's scrupulously literal, generally unrhymed translation somehow manages--no doubt due to Brecht's terrific feel for other poets' language, and, more specifically, his obvious sympathy with the Mask--to convey Shelley's startling ways of simultaneously condensing and exfoliating image, phrase, and line. Brecht, that is, powerfully grasps and identifies with Shelley's manner of marrying rhythmic propulsion to textural density, whereby through syntax, cadence, diction, and tone, an intense forward movement and stingingly precise denotation coexist with an imagistic counter-impulse that, with understated elegance, deftly builds back into the poem a cumulatively thickening self-reflection. The inspired and brilliant literalism of Brecht's translation--Brecht's ability to see (and then to render into an impressive construction of energy, concretion, and transparency) the Mask's interanimation of the material and the ideational, of grit and philosophically-oriented intellection--results in stanzas notably more literary and poetic than Wolfenstein's.

For Benjamin's implicit, and Adorno's and Elizabeth Hauptmann's explicit, assessments of Brecht's Shelley translations (as well as Brecht's later, possibly ambivalent attitude towards the translations), see my n.27 below.

16.  Werke 14 [Gedichte 4]: 404-405, 662n. Brecht worked on both the Mask and Peter Bell translations with his close collaborator Margarete Steffin; see Werke 14: 662-663nn., and 22.2: 1035-1036nn.

The Werke presents Brecht's Peter Bell translation as part of a larger text titled "Hölle" ["Hell"], Werke 14: 404-409, 662-663nn. "Hölle" begins with the nine Peter Bell stanzas, and then segues directly into the 25 Mask of Anarchy stanzas translated--and otherwise appearing only--in "Weite und Vielfalt." The textual history provided in the Werke's notes leads one to deduce that publication of the Peter Bell translation occurred only in (and then after) 1972, when the translation appeared in Benjamin's posthumously-organized-and-published Passagen-Werk; see my n.17 below.

17.  Brecht's translated Peter Bell stanzas appear in Das Passagen-Werk 1: 563-564 [also found in Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften 1: 563-564]; in English, see Benjamin, The Arcades Project 449-450.

The sequence of this sharing of ideas and manuscripts, and copying out of translations, can be reconstructed by coordinating Brecht's "Arbeitsjournal" entries for the period in question, along with the June-August 1938 sections of "Gespräche mit Brecht" in Benjamin's Versuche über Brecht 128-135 ["Conversations with Brecht" in Understanding Brecht 114-121], as well as Benjamin's correspondence (particularly with Adorno; see my n.27 below). In addition to the Benjamin texts just cited, see the Brecht Werke 26 [Journale 1]: 312-323, esp. 315, 317, and 319; these entries can be found in English in Bertolt Brecht Journals 6-19, esp. 10, 13, and 14.

18.  Brecht, "[Notizen über Baudelaire]" and "[Zu Les fleurs du mal]," Werke XXII.1 and XXII.2 [Schriften 2.1 and 2.2]: 451-453 and 1044-1045nn. Brecht had left these fragments untitled; "Notizen über Baudelaire" and "Zu Les fleurs du mal" are the titles supplied, and bracketed, by the Werke's editors.

19.  Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels. [Gesammelte Schriften 1.1: 203-430]. In English, The Origin of German Tragic Drama.

20.  It is almost impossible to resist juxtaposing Benjamin's insistence on Shelley's powerful grasp of allegory (and Benjamin's consequent insistence on Shelley's artistic grasp of reality) with F.R. Leavis's notorious claim, made only two years earlier, that Shelley had had a "weak grasp upon the actual." Leavis's indictment arises amidst his specific dismissal of Ode to the West Wind: the poem epitomizes what Leavis deems Shelley's unfortunate manner of being so "'essentially lyrical'" that, as a poet, Shelley can have "little to do with thinking." For Leavis, Shelley's poetry "induces--depends for its success on inducing--a kind of attention that doesn't bring the critical intelligence into play" (206-08). For two of the most thorough and impressive rebuttals of Leavis's argument, see Wasserman and Keach.

Leavis's judgment, based as it is on Shelley's lyricism (as Leavis sees it, on Shelley's exaggerated, excessively emotion-oriented lyricism) might for that reason seem removed from Benjamin's attention to Peter Bell the Third's biting satire. Yet the surrounding coordinates of Benjamin's discussion--from the Wolfenstein and Das Wort preludes, to the Baudelaire and Brecht variations, to the central motif of allegory itself--make clear that back of Benjamin's interest in Peter Bell lies exactly this problematic jointure: on one side, an ethereal or seemingly obscure lyric poetics convinced of the need for via-negativa coaxing of reality into provisionally apprehendable form; on the other, a righteous truth-telling that aims to call (with equal recourse to clear observation, active intellection, and socio-linguistic precision) a degraded present by its proper name. Productively to motivate the oscillation or shifting combination of the two sides is the whole point of Benjamin's theory of allegory, whose raison d'etre is, in a phrase, to gain a grasp upon the actual.

21.  Some, but by no means all of these poems (not to mention the drafts printed in the Werke notes) have been published in the English Poems. See the poems gathered under the titles Hollywoodelegien and Gedichte im Exil, Werke 12 [Gedichte 2]: 115-125; in Poems, see Hollywood Elegies 380-381 and the texts in the section "American Poems 1941-1947." See too "An Walter Benjamin, der sich auf der Flucht vor Hitler Entleibte," "Die Verlustliste," "Nachdenkend, wie ich höre" ["Nachdenkend über die Hölle"], and "Zum Freitod des Flüchtlings W.B.," Werke 15 [Gedichte 5]: 41, 43, 46, 48; in Poems, see "On Thinking About Hell" and "On the Suicide of the Refugee W.B.," 367, 363.

See also the Werke's reprinting of the remarkable 1942 typescript draft that Brecht had provisionally titled "Die Hölle" (which is distinct from the Werke text combining the Mask and Peter Bell translations and titled "Hölle," discussed in my n.16 above); this "Die Hölle" typescript is clearly a preliminary stage of the Hollywoodelegien. This 1942 "Die Hölle" typescript, moreover, unmistakably arises from the Shelley-matrix, reworking, in fact, the same ideas and even words about "mein Bruder Shelley" (and the figuration of London and Los Angeles as competing versions of Hell) that appear in the 1941 "Nachdenkend über die Hölle." Both "Nachdenkend über die Hölle" and the "Die Hölle" typescript should be traced, of course, back to the Summer 1938 translations, analyses, and discussions of Shelley, particularly to the Peter Bell translation. See Werke 12: 399-400nn. (The 1942 "Die Hölle" typescript may well have emerged from what would have been a previous, manuscript sketch--evidently not possessed by the Brecht Archive, nor elsewhere known--that would have served as the basis for "Nachdenkend über die Hölle," the Hollywoodelegien, and related poems.)

For a more brutal sense of what is at stake in these overlapping materials, contexts, and drafts, where--with Shelley so often providing the stated melody or haunting undersong--Brecht undertakes to write alternately despairing and enraged elegy, see Brecht's seven stark, ultimately-discarded lines from the first sketch of "Die Verlustliste" ["The Casualty List"]. Those lines include: "Wo ist Benjamin, der Kritiker?/...Benjamin ist an der spanischen Grenze begraben./...Ich fahre entlang den Bomberwerften von Los Angeles" ["Where is Benjamin, the critic?/...Benjamin is buried at the Spanish border./...I drive along the bomber-hangars of Los Angeles"]. Werke 15: 338-339nn.

22.  See, most recently, Chandler's monumental England in 1819 483-554, Cox's brief but very suggestive comments in Poetry and Politics in the Cockney School 211-216, and again, Jones's Shelley's Satire 49-69, 149-164.

23.  Translation emended: ("wenn er von diesen Kompositionen spricht, nicht wenn er komponiert," Werke 27 [Journale 2]: 125). See too the editors' notes, Werke 12 [Gedichte 2]: 399-403, and the note in Poems, 586.   

24.  Werke 27 [Journale 2]: 125 ["Dies sind volle Gedichte"; "in der Tat haben die Kompositionen wirkliche Bedeutung wahrscheinlich auch als Musik..."].

Eisler's 1942 comments on the Brecht poems may not have been as judgmental as Brecht had initially believed, nor, in any case, do they appear to have represented Eisler's final opinion on the texts: Eisler subsequently observed that the Hollywoodelegien were his favorite works among all Brecht's poetry. See Bunge 244, cited in the Brecht Werke 12 [Gedichte 2]: 402.

25.  The texts have a staggered publication and reception history, dating from Eisler's 1950s recordings of the Hollywoodliederbuch [Hollywood Song-Book] (which includes the Hollywoodelegien and other Brecht poems), and the volumes of Brecht's later poetry, in German and in translation, that appear from the late 1940s onward. With the Brecht volumes in particular, it happens that a significant number of the early 1940s poems from and around the "Shelley-Baudelaire-critical lyric" matrix become readily available in German only in the '50s and '60s, and in some cases are not translated until the '60s and '70s.

26.  Here I use avant-gardist and anti-aesthetic in the very specific sense drawn out by Peter Bürger's Theory of the Avant-Garde. For related thoughts about how currents within today's experimental poetry complicate the usual narrative of post-Modernism's superannuation of Modernism, see Kaufman, "A Future for Modernism" and "Everybody Hates Kant."

27.  In his 1 February 1939 letter to Benjamin about "The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire," Adorno questions the fidelity to Shelley of the Brecht Peter Bell translation that Benjamin's essay quotes; Adorno wonders whether such "directness and bluntness" ["Direktheit und Härte"] can really be found in the original. See Adorno and Benjamin, Briefwechsel 1928-1940, 397; Adorno and Benjamin, The Complete Correspondence, 1928-1940, 304. An editors' note in Complete Correspondence, though not indicating that the rest of Brecht's Peter Bell translation appears in the Passagen-Werk, does provide Shelley's stanza, and comments that "Brecht's translation does follow the English of Shelley's original very closely" (308 n.32).

Interestingly, Adorno's initial doubts concerning the translation's fidelity or quality are later echoed by Brecht's close collaborator and editor Elisabeth Hauptmann, who observes too that Brecht himself had seriously doubted the Peter Bell and Mask translations' merit; see the Brecht Werke 14: 662-663nn. There is no corroborating evidence, from Brecht or others, that Brecht ever actually shared Hauptmann's view or held the one she attributes to him; Brecht's 1954 publication of the Mask translation-essay (in the journal Versuche) would seem to count as contrary evidence.

Adorno for his part may subsequently have changed his mind--at least somewhat--about the Peter Bell translations, which he would have continued to read, preserved as they were in the Benjamin texts that Adorno helped to edit after Benjamin's death. Significantly, the first line of those Peter Bell stanzas reappears in one of Adorno's most important discussions of modern poetics, "Parataxis" (1963). As if at once conceding and contesting the same old point, Adorno (here constellating Shelley, Baudelaire, and Hölderlin) quite laudatorily gives the first line from those Peter Bell stanzas: but he presents the first half of Shelley's line in German, the second half in English! "Wie Hölderlins Wahlverwandtem Shelley die Hölle eine Stadt ist, much like London..." ["Just as for Hölderlin's kindred spirit Shelley Hell is a city `much like London...'"]. See "Parataxis. Zur späten Lyrik Hölderlins," Noten zur Literatur 3: 174 [Gesammelte Schriften 11: 462], "Parataxis: On Hölderlin's Late Poetry," Notes to Literature 2: 122.

For several years, Benjamin had gone back and forth with Adorno (who usually also represented Horkheimer in these colloquies) about Benjamin's Baudelaire texts and related writings. In 1935, Benjamin had submitted a draft of "The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire" to the Institut für Sozialforschung's [Institute of Social Research's] house organ, the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung [Journal of Social Research]. At that point, Benjamin was conceiving "The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire" as the second part of a streamlined, three-part version of the Passagen-Werk that would be called Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century. In Fall 1938, Benjamin submitted a revised version of the essay, which quoted and briefly discussed the translated Peter Bell stanza. For the relevant exchanges about these essays, see Briefwechsel 138 ff., 364 ff., and 388 ff.; Complete Correspondence, 104 ff., 280 ff., and 298 ff. (Some of these letters are included in Aesthetics and Politics's section on the Adorno-Benjamin debates.)

Though Adorno and Horkheimer had published Benjamin essays about which they had serious reservations--most famously, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"--they did not, even after further Adorno-Benjamin correspondence (in November 1938), publish the revised "Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire." In early 1939 they did, however, publish Benjamin's "Über einige Motive bei Baudelaire" ["On Some Motifs in Baudelaire"], which Benjamin had intended as the "thesis" of Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century. "Über einige Motive bei Baudelaire" can be found in Benjamin's Illuminationen 201-245, in Charles Baudelaire: Ein Lyriker im Zeitalter des Hochkapitalismus 111-164, and Gesammelte Schriften I.2: 605-653. In English, see "On Some Motifs in Baudelaire" in Illuminations 155-200, or in Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism 107-154.

For a lucid and compressed history of the initial controversies over Benjamin's Baudelaire writings, see Jay 197-212, esp. 206-211.

28 .  See "On Lyric Poetry and Society," "Parataxis: On Hölderlin's Late Poetry," and "Commitment" in Notes to Literature; "Rede über Lyrik und Gesellschaft," "Parataxis. Zur späten Lyrik Hölderlins," and "Engagement" in Noten zur Literatur [Gesammelte Schriften 11]. See too Aesthetic Theory; Ästhetische Theorie [Gesammelte Schriften 7].

29.  For a more sustained discussion of Adornian constructivism, see Kaufman, "Red Kant."

30.  For a sketch of the missing Keatsian piece, see Kaufman, "Negatively Capable Dialectics."

Published @ RC

May 2001