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    Laughter and war in Berlin

    Rueger, Jan (2009) Laughter and war in Berlin. History Workshop Journal 67 (1), pp. 1-22. ISSN 1363-3554.

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    Could there be laughter and amusement in the city while there was death and suffering at the front? What aspects of humour were legitimate in times of war? What should be the meaning of laughter in ‘serious times’? The essay approaches these questions through the intriguing case of Carl Braun, otherwise known as Carl Höbner, who in October 1914 ran into trouble with the Berlin police for mimicking German generals and dignitaries. Braun’s case leads, in the second part of the essay, to an investigation of the wider debate about laughter and seriousness that unfolded during the war. While the Kaiser and the military pronounced a taboo on urban laughter, radical conservatives propagated what they called ‘German humour’. Yet much of the city’s entertainment industry argued for precisely the kind of laughter that the Wilhelmine elite found so unappealing. The third part of the essay asks what the outcome of this debate meant politically, suggesting that the way in which laughter and war were negotiated reflected wider questions about power and sovereignty in Imperial Germany. Yet reconstructing the politics of wartime laughter not only prompts us to question well-established assumptions about the cultural history of war, it also sheds new light on wider issues concerning the relationship between laughter and power.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2010 09:12
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 16:53


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