The novella Lenz (1839; English translation, 1963), based on the life of dramatist Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, is Georg Büchner’s best-known work. A defense of Cato’s suicide, a small fragment of a short story, and some poems also exist. Büchner translated two dramas, Lukretia Borgia, of Victor Hugo’s Lucrèce Borgia (1833), in 1909, and Maria Tudor, of Hugo’s Marie Tudor (1833), also in 1909. Büchner also wrote a medical dissertation as well as several medical-philosophical papers and, together with Friedrich Ludwig Weidig, two versions of a political pamphlet, Der Hessische Landbote (1834; The Hessian Messenger, 1963). Some of Büchner’s letters have also been translated into English.
Georg Büchner had just completed his doctoral studies when he died during a typhus epidemic in Zurich; he was not yet twenty-four years old. Partly because of his short life span and partly because his manuscripts were dispersed after his death, Büchner did not gain general recognition as one of Germany’s great writers until fifty years after his death, and his reputation outside Germany lagged behind for an additional half century. Leonce and Lena was not staged until 1895; Danton’s Death was not produced until 1902; and Woyzeck had its premiere in 1913.
Büchner’s political activism caused friction with German authorities and prevented an open relationship with his parents. His medical studies paved the way for a promising career, however, and, after completing his dissertation, he gave an inaugural lecture at the University of Zurich in November, 1836, and he was granted a lectureship there before his death. His literary endeavors, undertaken originally to supplement his meager financial resources, show keen psychological insights, an intense interest in the social injustices of the time, and an awareness of experimental dramatic techniques that place him far beyond his contemporaries in literary innovation. Besides the historical drama Danton’s Death and the comedy Leonce and Lena, Büchner left several versions of the drama Woyzeck (based on an actual murder case). Another drama,...
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Chen, Jui-Min. Inversion of Revolutionary Ideals: A Study of the Tragic Essence of Georg Büchner’s “Dantons Tod,” Ernst Toller’s “Masse Mensch,” and Bertolt Brecht’s “Die Massnahme.” Studies on Themes and Motifs in Literature 33. New York: P. Lang, 1998. This study of revolutionary themes in German literature examines Büchner’s Danton’s Death as well as two other works by German writers. Includes bibliography.
Crighton, James. Büchner and Madness: Schizophrenia in Georg Büchner’s “Lenz” and “Woyzeck.” Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1998. A view from the medical perspective on Büchner’s Woyzeck and Lenz. Contains bibliography and index.
Grimm, Reinhold. Love, Lust, and Rebellion: New Approaches to Georg Büchner. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. Grimm analyzes Büchner’s life and works, paying special attention to his themes of rebellion and love. Includes index and bibliography.
Hauser, Ronald. Georg Büchner. New York: Twayne, 1974. A standard biography from Twayne’s World Authors series.
Hilton, Julian. Georg Büchner. New York: Grove Press, 1982. A concise biography examining the writer and his works. Includes bibliography and index.
Holmes, T. M. The Rehearsal of Revolution: Georg Büchner’s Politics and His Drama “Dantons Tod.” New York: P. Lang, 1995. Holmes examines Büchner’s Danton’s Death in the light of its political overtones. Includes bibliography.
Mills, Ken, and Brian Keith-Smith, eds. Georg Büchner: Tradition and Innovation: Fourteen Essays. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992. A collection of papers from a symposium on Büchner that took place at the Institute of Germanic Studies, University of London, in 1987. Includes bibliography.
Reddick, John. Georg Büchner: The Shattered Whole. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. A scholarly examination of Büchner’s life and works. Includes bibliography and index.
Richards, David G. Georg Büchner’s “Woyzeck”: A History of Its Criticism. Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House, 2001. This study of Büchner’s Woyzeck attempts to place the literary criticism of the work into perspective. Includes bibliography and index.