by Jane Bohnsack
I began my position here at the MALS/IDS office with only a basic understanding of how these particular graduate programs function. Having been working here for still only a short while, the excitement I find in learning about the programs, the students, and their areas of study has not yet faded. At the very basis of my own academic studies is the understanding that identities intersect on various social levels; one can never be whittled down to a single, rigid characteristic, nor can a creative work. The interdisciplinary nature of the MALS and IDS programs, and subsequently the work MALS and IDS students complete, seems to fully embody this idea, making recent graduates’ work especially exciting for me to learn about.
Elizabeth Cody, a MALS 2010 graduate, focused her thesis on the 20th century German exile of two artists, and created a nuanced look at artwork that stems from issues of nationalism, identity and guilt. Elizabeth looked particularly at the works of Georg Grosz and Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht, two German realist artists. Grosz and Brecht are analyzed and compared through their similar political beliefs, artistic works and exiled status. Grosz moved towards political, active artwork following a short, but horrific, stint in the German military. Grosz felt it was those most exploited by militarized violence – the victims– could make the greatest difference. He brought this attitude into fruition when he joined the highly politicized Berlin Dadaists, where he played an active role organizing and speaking out. Brecht’s artistic endeavors began as more academic pursuits; he was a poet and playwright, utilizing language to explore themes of homoeroticism, violence, misogyny, while often satirizing the earlier impressionist styles.
Both artists were affected by the dangerous political atmosphere of Germany in the early 20th century: “During the Weimar Years, Grosz and Brecht explored Communism, capitalism, militarism, and misogyny in their works. Politics was the focus of much of the work of Grosz and Brecht due to the clashing politics in Germany following the First World War.” Both eventually fled Germany, either shortly before or right after Adolf Hitler came to power. Elizabeth’s work examines the result of these twin exiles, both the resulting feelings of guilt found within the artists themselves, and also in the ways this guilt manifested itself in their creative works.