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Revolutionary socialism in the work of Ernst Toller.

Dove, Richard (1982) Revolutionary socialism in the work of Ernst Toller. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94316) (KAR id:94316)


This study analyses Toller's revolutionary Socialism and its reflection in his literary work. It adopts a chronological and synoptic approach, in which Toller's political speeches, journalism and documentary prose are shewn to amplify and clarify the better-known dramas.

Toller's ideology had its roots in the Anarchist tradition as mediated by Landauer; the last half of Die Wandlung (1917-18) transposes Landauer's conception of social revolution into the dramatic conventions of Expressionism. Eisner's influence lent Toller's thinking a neo-Kantian dimension, evident in Masse Mensch (1919), in which Toller distilled his experience of the 'Räterepublik' into a dialectic of opposing philosophies of revolutionary action. Die Maschinenstürmer (1920-21) marks a shift in ideology and dramatic form, treating a dialectical theme derived from historical sources. The materialist connotations of theme conflict, however, with an idealist conception of revolution, illustrating the essential dichotomy in Toller's political thinking. Der deutsche Hinkemann shows an ideological regression, placing revolution in a framework of existential pessimism. The subsequent development of his attitude of commitment without illusions is documented in Das Schwalbenbuch, Der entfesselte Wotan and the revisions to Hinkemann (all 1923).

Hoppla, wir leben! (1927) presents a re-evaluation of his political ideas; the play's portrait of the Weimar Republic complements his political jcurnalism. Similarly, the documentary drama Feuer aus den Kesseln (1930) is a counterpart to the preise works Justiz and Quer Durch (1930) Toller's conception of Socialism and revolution received its most extended exposition in his autobiography. While acknowledging the role of economic factors, he ultimately placed them in a perspective of ethical idealism. The conflict in his work, often consciously transposed into dramatic conflict, is therefore one of political ideas - those of Anarchism and Marxism, idealism and materialism, voluntarism and determinism. The study concludes by reviewing Toller's work in exile and evaluating his place in the theatre of the interwar years.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94316
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Literature
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PT German literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2023 13:12 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 13:12 UTC
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