German journal, 1954–
Die Akzente: Zeitschrift für Literatur (Accent: journal for literature) is one of Germany’s most important post-World War II literary journals, both enabling the recovery of literary movements and works brutally suppressed by the National Socialists, and encouraging avant-garde poetry and drama. Founded in 1954 by Walter Höllerer and
Hans Bender, with the original subtitle Zeitschrift für Dichtung (Journal for poetry), the journal continues to appear in bimonthly issues, and has a circulation of about 4500. DA has presented works by nearly every major postwar German writer, from fiction by Günter Grass and Gabriele Wohmann to essays concerning aesthetics and politics by
Theodor W.Adorno and Martin Heidegger. It has also been an important source of literature and criticism from other European countries and North America. Recent issues of the periodical have included works by Thomas Bernhard, Tankred Dorst, and Günter Kunert.
Essays in DA have often provided the theoretical basis for reclaiming German Modernist literature and for encouraging postwar artistic and cultural movements. Essays in the first years of DA discuss dadaism and surrealism, expressionists such as the poet Georg Heym, and Bertolt Brecht’s epic theater, helping to reestablish the importance of
these movements and authors. Indeed, Höllerer has remarked that the recovery of these works, and of German literary tradition in general, was a primary motivation for establishing the journal. The first issue of DA (February 1954) included works from the literary estates of the philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin and the Jewish
poet Gertrud Kolmar, both of whom had been killed by the Nazis. The same issue included three essays concerning Robert Musil’s influential Modernist novel, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (1930–43; The Man Without Qualities). Other essays of this period concerning the radio play and the form of the novel, such as Adorno’s “Form und Gehalt
des zeitgenössischen Romans” (August 1954; Form and content of the contemporary novel), suggest the importance of DA for the development of postwar German literary aesthetics. DA was also an important source of works and criticism by members of Gruppe 47 (Group 47), a union of writers who demanded discussion of the Nazi period and its implications for postwar German culture. Similarly innovative works by the novelist Uwe Johnson and the documentary dramatist Peter Weiss have often appeared in the periodical.
Most characteristic of DA, however, has been its focus on poetry. Höllerer, who is himself a poet and playwright, encouraged other writers of experimental and avant-garde poetry and is largely responsible for the journal’s early emphasis on the lyric. Bender, too, has contributed many essays on poetry to DA and other periodicals, and has edited
several anthologies of poems. Poems have appeared by such central figures as Helmut Heissenbüttel and Hans Magnus Enzensberger, and poetry continues to play an important role in the journal.
It has always been an important source of works in translation, and has included essays and literature by writers from the United States, England, France, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. In 1956 it published essays by Roland Barthes, Luc Estang, and Alain Robbe-Grillet, providing an important forum in Germany for these French thinkers.
Robbe-Grillet’s essay concerning the contemporary novel, “Für einen Realismus des Hierseins” (August 1956; For a realism of the present), also helped fuel German literary debate and conceptions of the postwar German novel. In 1958 DA introduced the Beat poets to many German readers, publishing works such as Gregory Corso’s essay, “Dichter und Gesellschaft in Amerika” (The poet and society in America). The February 1968 edition of DA featured works by Americans Richard Brautigan and Susan Sontag.
Since the reunification of Germany in 1990, much attention has been given to writers in the East. In the February 1992 issue of DA, a section of the periodical was devoted to Estonian poets including Doris Kareval and Viivi Luik.
In 1968 Walter Höllerer left DA and Hans Bender became the sole editor of the journal. At that time, Bender changed the subtitle to Zeitschrift für Literatur, indicating more fully the diverse forms of writing included in the journal. Shortly after Höllerer’s departure, Michael Krüger was named co-editor, becoming sole editor in 1981, a position he retains today. Krüger continues to include the combination of literature and essays that has characterized DA since its inception. The format of the journal has largely remained the same as well. Booksize, it includes few illustrations or advertisements. With the first issue of 1981, DA began to include photographs on the front cover and in various sections of the journal.
Under Krüger’s editorship of DA, editorials have become more polemical, and more willing to discuss specific political and social issues. In 1992, for instance, the opening editorial discussed two ostensible Western “victories”: the War in the Persian Gulf, and the dissolution of the East European communist governments. Subsequent issues of DA
have brought attention to the literature and culture of Iraq and Bosnia.
While editors of DA have tended toward political liberalism, their understanding of Kultur has changed little since the journal’s initial appearance. Krüger, for instance, maintains DA’s long tradition of distinguishing between what he calls a German “Vernunftskultur” (high culture) and a “Subkultur” (low culture). Common targets of Krüger’s editorials are the media and particularly television, and the destabilizing
influence of postmodernism.
Bolz, Rüdiger, “Literatur, wie wir sie sehen, kommt nie nach Hause …Akzente: Ein publizistisches Forum der Nachkriegsjahre,” Der Deutschunterricht 33, no. 3
Lass, R.H., “Accent on the Sixties,” Modern Language Review 61 (1966):455–66
Schroedel, Folker, “Akzente” 1954–1967 (M.A.thesis), Erlangen-Nürnberg: University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, 1987
25 Jahre Akzente (catalogue), Sulzbach-Rosenberg: Literaturarchiv Sulzbach-Rosenberg,
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