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‘The Triumph of the Will’: The German Expressionist Body c. 1905-1945 and the Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer.

BREALEY, MARC,RUFUS (2018) ‘The Triumph of the Will’: The German Expressionist Body c. 1905-1945 and the Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis explores depictions of the human body in German Expressionist art and the ways in which they might be interpreted through Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy. It is inspired by Franz Marc’s claim that, in Schopenhauer’s terms, the world as will took precedence over the world as representation in his own day.
Discussion begins with an assessment of Vasily Kandinsky’s development of abstract art in relation to Schopenhauer’s philosophy of the world as representation. Here attention is given to Kandinsky’s personal reading of Schopenhauer’s doctrine of vision and colour. Chapter 2 explores depictions of dance in Expressionism, where the body is considered to be an objectification of the will. Discussion is negotiated through a case study of the work of Emil Nolde. In addition to the body in movement, the theme of the naked body was also central to Expressionist ideology and practice. Hence, Chapter 3 engages in an interpretation of Expressionist depictions of the naked body according to Schopenhauer’s doctrine of the Platonic ideas and the world as representation.
The outbreak of war in 1914 presented the Expressionist generation with new challenges. Chapter 4, therefore, examines the military experiences of selected Expressionist artists in order to assess their affirmation or denial of the will to war. The final chapters of the thesis reflect upon the relationship between Expressionism and the emergent Nazi regime in the 1930s. Chapter 5 takes as its theme an exploration of ‘degenerate art’ and ‘degenerate’ bodies in relation to the artist Otto Mueller and his depiction of gypsies, according to Schopenhauer’s moral philosophy. Finally, Chapter 6 investigates Emil Nolde’s association with Nazism and offers a new interpretation of these associations according to Schopenhauer’s doctrine of free will. In conclusion, the thesis demonstrates that Marc’s claims were broadly valid throughout this period but not without exception.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:The Will - German Expressionism - Arthur Schopenhauer
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:31 Jul 2018 14:20

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