Making a whore of freedom: Büchner's Marion episode

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

No moment in Georg Büchner's drama has been assigned more significance as a marker of his radical modernity than the "Marion episode." Apparently unprecedented in form and content, this brief, enigmatic exchange between a prostitute and the protagonist of Dantons Tod [Danton's Death] is taken as the archetype of Büchner's jagged, proto-montage aesthetic, as the first example of his proto-psychological focus on the close rendering of sensation, and as the foundational statement of what is taken to be his proto-nihilist repudiation of history. This essay suggests that such impressions are mistaken. It reveals the Marion episode to be a tightly constructed allegory of French Revolutionary history, and one that takes as its precedent and pretence the most widely known work of pre-Revolutionary pornography in Europe, the once-forbidden Thérèse philosophe [Thérè se the Philosopher]. Linking the pornographic to the political, mirroring each in the other, the Marion episode, it suggests, does not use eroticism to break with history so much as to illuminate it, figuring the Revolution as a process shaped and driven by a libertine structure of desire that its violence exhausts and destroys. Rather than marking out Büchner as a proleptic modernist, the "Marion episode," it concludes, places him firmly, with Baudelaire, in second-generation modernity, registering the emergence of the modern from the destructive violence of the past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-265
Number of pages22
JournalModern Drama
Volume53
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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