Carl Sternheim Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

In addition to plays, Carl Sternheim wrote a novel, several novellas, and a number of essays. A typical example of his fiction is the novella Busekow (1913), the prose style of which marks a transition from naturalism to a condensed expressionistic narrative technique. Sternheim deliberately omits insignificant details, highlighting in a woodcutlike fashion only the essential facts and events. This style shows a strong tendency toward abstraction, overstatement, and satiric exaggeration. The novella Meta (1916) is written in similar fashion. In it, Sternheim traces the psychological development of a maid who loses her sweetheart in the war and spends the rest of her life trying to compensate in various ways for the loss. The essay Gauguin und van Gogh (1924) and the novella Heidenstam (1918) are of particular significance, because Sternheim uses them to discuss the central issue of expressionist aesthetics: the attempt to penetrate beneath the surface of the "appearance” of reality toward its true “essence.” The expressionist artist attempts to tear off the “mask” of reality as it appears to sensory perception to reach the true being of things (das Wesen).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

During the two decades between 1910 and 1930, Carl Sternheim was one of the most prominent playwrights in Germany. His plays were staged at most of the prestigious German theaters, with occasional performances in Rome, Paris, and London. His influence is evident in the work of modern German and Swiss dramatists who are critical of the middle class and of capitalist industrial society—in particular, Bertolt Brecht and Friedrich Dürrenmatt. After World War II, some of his plays were successfully revived in West Germany. Several of his works have been translated into English, French, and Italian.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Chick, Edson M. Dances of Death: Wedekind, Brecht, Dürrenmatt, and the Satiric Tradition. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1984. Chick examines the use of satire in the works of Sternheim, Frank Wedekind, Bertolt Brecht, and Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Bibliography and index.

Dedner, Burghard. Carl Sternheim. Boston: Twayne, 1982. A basic biography of Sternheim and critical analyses of his works. Bibliography and index.

Sturges, Dugald S. The German Molière Revival and the Comedies of Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Carl Sternheim. New York: Peter Lang, 1993. Sturges examines the influence of Molière on the plays of Sternheim and von Hofmannsthal. Bibliography and index.

William, Rhys W. Carl Sternheim: A Critical Study. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 1982. William provides an analysis of Sternheim’s life and his works. Bibliography.