Hermann Sudermann Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Hermann Sudermann was known as a novelist and short-story writer as well as a dramatist. Best known among his novels are Frau Sorge (1887; Dame Care, 1891), Der Katzensteg (1889; Regina, 1894), Es war (1894; The Undying Past, 1906), Das hohe Lied (1908; The Song of Songs, 1909), Der tolle Professor (1926; The Mad Professor, 1928), and Die Frau des Steffen Tromholt (1927; The Wife of Steffen Tromholt, 1929). Best known among his stories and collections are Iolanthes Hochzeit (1892; Iolantha’s Wedding, 1918), Die indische Lilie (1911; The Indian Lily, 1911), and Litauische Geschichten (1917; The Excursion to Tilsit, 1930). Sudermann also wrote a literary autobiography, Das Bilderbuch meiner Jugend (1922; The Book of My Youth, 1923).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

For many years, the East Prussian Hermann Sudermann successfully competed for the favor of the German theatergoing public with the poet laureate of the age of naturalism, the Silesian Gerhart Hauptmann . Both writers had come to Berlin from the eastern provinces of Germany and had triumphed within a few months of each other in the artistic and political capital of the empire. The innovative and revolutionary Freie Bühne (free stage) performed Hauptmann’s first drama, Vor Sonnenaufgang (pr., pb. 1889; Before Dawn, 1909), in 1889, and followed it with Sudermann’s first play, in 1890, after it had premiered at Berlin’s Lessing Theater on November 27, 1889. Sudermann’s next two plays, A Man and His Picture and Magda, were enthusiastically received as well. They established him as a favorite Berlin playwright for the decade up to 1902. By then, the Berlin critics, under the leadership of the renowned and despotic Alfred Kerr, had begun to consider Sudermann inferior to the towering genius of Hauptmann.

With his move to Berlin, Sudermann more or less abandoned the form of the novel, which he had previously employed to describe the land and the people of his native East Prussia, and turned his attention primarily to drama, perhaps because it better captured the fast pace of the big city. From the outset, the critics perceived a certain shallowness in his characters and in the world that he depicted in his plays....

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Friesen, Lauren. “Dramatic Arts and Mennonite Culture.” MELUS 21, no. 3 (Fall, 1996): 107-124. In her essay about Mennonite plays, Friesen examines the role played by Sudermann, a Mennonite.

Leydecker, Karl. Marriage and Divorce in the Plays of Hermann Sudermann. New York: Peter Lang, 1996. Leydecker analyzes the concepts of marriage and divorce as they appear in the plays of Sudermann. Includes bibliography.

Matulis, Anatole C. Lithuanian Culture in Modern German Prose Literature: Hermann Sudermann, Ernest Wiechert, Agnes Miegel. Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University, 1966. This study of the Lithuanian culture’s presence in German literature focuses on prose, but it sheds light on Sudermann’s plays as well. Includes bibliography.

Stroinigg, Cordelia E. Sudermann’s “Frau Sorge”: Jugendstil, Archetype, Fairy Tale. New York: Peter Lang, 1995. Although this work deals primarily with Dame Care, one of Sudermann’s novels, it discusses the naturalism to be found in his plays. Includes bibliography and index.