The Surprisingly Erotic Poetry of Bertolt Brecht

BY WILLIAM GIRALDI

bertolt-brechtThink of Bertolt Brecht and you do not think of Eros. A fervent Marxist playwright with a handful of masterworks—Drums in the Night, The Threepenny Opera, Mother Courage and Her Children, Life of Galileo, The Good Person of Szechwan—Brecht was also the most revolutionary drama theorist of the twentieth century. His misnamed “epic theater” posited a smashing of theater’s fourth wall and a dispelling of the emotional abracadabra drama casts over its audience. A round-the-clock communist for whom literature was the manifestation of socio-historical pressures, Brecht believed that art should function as the instigation for revolt. Art must be useful, must serve the gritty aims of practicality. No self-important prettiness, no “willing suspension of disbelief,” no Aristotelian catharsis. Brecht would rather you not be so bourgeois as to feel anything; instead, think about what you’re seeing and then go depose your tranquilized leaders.

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