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About the Database

German literary Expressionism Online gathers all the important Expressionist literary journals, anthologies, yearbooks and collections together in one extensive research database for the first time.

The aim of this project is to provide online access to the journal’s literary, artistic, cultural-political, aesthetic, propagandist and feuilleton contributions as digital facsimiles, thus preserving them in context of their original text and design. However, for the benefit of the user, the text material has also been indexed to the very highest technical level. Compiling this material in a digital publication opens up the possibility for researchers to take completely new approaches to individual authors, aspects or genres. Both obtaining texts and gaining systematic access to them is made considerably easier.

Thus a unique body of source material has been created, for research on the Expressionist movement and the early history of the 20th century.


The significance of the sources for different topics
As a literary and cultural movement, Expressionism was very influential for 20th century literature. Of the young authors who made their first literary appearances with poems, stories and programmatic writings in those days, many are numbered among the most important literary figures of the 20th century, e.g. Hugo Ball, Johannes R. Becher, Gottfried Benn, Klabund, Georg Heym, Else Lasker-Schüler, Georg Trakl, Frank Wedekind or Franz Werfel.  

Within the Expressionist movement journals and anthologies formed the most important forum for ideas, writing and for public debate. Each author belonging to the Expressionist movement wrote for one journal or another, some publishing their work exclusively in periodicals and collections. The journals and collections are extremely important sources for German literature of the early 20th century because of their great significance at that time for the process of presenting new literature and its ideas on the theory of art, and contemporary cultural and sociopolitical topics. This self-contained group of sources reflects the literary movement of Expressionism in its entirety.  

The material is particularly interesting for source work because, on the one hand, the first publications of many the contributions can be studied here, and on the other, these publications were in periodicals – a medium with rapid, regular publications. Thus, each work can be considered and understood in context of contemporary history, as a direct reaction to historical and political events.  

The anthologies and journals in the database are not only significant from a purely literary point of view. Philosophers, theologians, politicians, historians, art historians, psychologists, and many authors who were not central to the expressionist movement also wrote for the new journals; such as Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Buber, Theodor Herzl, Theodor Heuss and Gustav Landauer. Lithographies, drawings, linocuts and even examples of sheet music were printed in these publications, in some cases for the first time. The theatre and the early days of film were also decisively influenced by Expressionist styles. The new mass media was the subject of numerous essays. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) by Robert Wiene, Metropolis (by Fritz Lang), Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came into the World) by Paul Wegener or Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror) by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, are all famous examples of expressionist films. The sources collected in this database also offer a wealth of material for the study of history of art, the theatre and film.  

Texts by foreign authors were often published in the journals, providing detailed coverage of new tendencies in European literature and reviewing works by foreign authors. Paul Claudel, Dostojewski, Maxim Gorki, Knut Hamsun, Ibsen, Edgar Allen Poe, Puschkin, Romain Rolland, Strindberg, Shaw, Tolstoi and Oscar Wilde are but a few of the authors who are represented either with their own contributions or with discussions of their works. Thus the journals are important sources on cultural transfer at the beginning of the 20th century.  

Despite their use of a new aesthetic language, the expressionists were intensively concerned with the German Classical and Romantic movements, printing and discussing texts by the major classical writers. Thus, the database also provides original source material for studies on the reception of the German Classical and Romantic movements at the beginning of the 20th century and research on Expressionism’s literary role models.  

Not least, the texts found in this database also represent a unique body of contemporary historical sources. Expressionism explicitly regarded itself as a political movement and was a focal point for the convergence of liberal and radical tendencies between the end of the Wilhelminian Era and the Weimar Republic. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were read, Erich Mühsam, Gustav Landauer, Kurt Eisner, Ernst Toller and many others wrote programmatic texts on revolution, the Räterepublik (German Soviet Republic) and the socialist utopia. The works contain interesting material on the relationship of intellectuals and artists to socialism and anarchism, and thus also constitute a source on the history of socialist ideology. In very different ways the authors give their opinions on contemporary events: on World War I, the November Revolution, the ‘Räterepublik’ and the beginnings of the Weimar Republic. World War I in particular was the topic of poems (expressionist war poems), reports, essays and manifestos.  


On the Collection of Material
Two essential German studies standard works formed the starting point for the compilation of the content: In the 1960s Paul Raabe compiled a bibliographic canon of expressionist collective publications which he outlined in the repertory Die Zeitschriften und Sammlungen des literarischen Expressionismus (The journals and collections of literary expressionism) (1). Later came the 18-volume Index Expressionismus (Index expressionism) (2), a content-analytical reappraisal of the canon of journals. For this database, the editor has critically revised the canon of works, enlarged it with 36 additional works and re-indexed the contributions it contains. In all the database now covers 105 journals, 11 collected works, 12 year books and 23 anthologies, in more than 2,500 editions. About 78,900 pages were digitized for the database, where they can be searched in full text and using different extensive indexes.  

No library currently offers access to a collection of material as complete and indexed in as much detail as the one compiled here: many of the editions included are present in only a few libraries and are no longer available for use due to their fragile condition.  

The masters used for digitization came from various libraries and partly from private collections. They were carefully examined and their details compared with the existing bibliographical information. In the process, numerous bibliographical corrections and amendments were undertaken, such as pages in the sample copies that were either unnumbered, falsely numbered or even completely missing.  

In addition, the user is provided with 440 bio-bibliographical articles on the editors of and most important contributors to the publications. These articles originate from the volume Die Autoren und Bücher des literarischen Expressionismus (The authors and books of literary expressionism) (3) and from the Deutsches Literatur-Lexikon (Lexicon of German literature) (4). In some cases new articles were written. In addition, this group of people have all been given identification numbers derived from the Name Authority File (PND) of the German National Library, serving as linking and identification devices.  

For all publications contained in the database, descriptions of the titles can be called up, complete with details of their publication histories, editors and publishers as well as a list of the contributions.  


Search Access
The user can access the texts in several ways:

A number of search criteria are available, enabling the user to search accurately for contributions in the publications. Besides bibliographical details, systematic search criteria such as subjects and generic terms can be used. Full text searches through the entire text material or in combination with other search criteria provide access on yet another level. For example, the use of terms and sayings can be studied in context using the full text search.

In order to provide the reader with texts preserved in the context of their original contents and designs, pages are displayed on screen as digital facsimiles. This is especially important, because the avant-garde artistic design of many journals was an essential aspect of their expressionist self-perception.  


Importance of the database
The database German literary Expressionism Online offers unique possibilities for scholarly research. An extensive digital library with contributions by more than 5,400 artists and authors of the early 20th century is available at a mouse-click.

Questions concerning the material, themes and social history of the Expressionist movement’s entire literary output can be answered here, thanks to the variety of search categories and excellent subject indexing of each individual text and picture. Genre specific research is also made considerably easier. The in-depth subject indexing can reveal authors and artists who await rediscovery, having long since drifted from the main center of scholarly interest.  


We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the libraries that lent material and provided invaluable help during the compilation of this work: Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, Universitätsbibliothek der Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek Köln, Universitätsbibliothek ‘Johann Christian Senckenberg’ Frankfurt / Main, and Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, which helped us in the identification of names (PND-IDs).


The editor
Paul Raabe is a literary scholar and, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), “Germany’s most well-known librarian”. With unparalleled energy, he influenced institutions that are important centers in Germany’s academic landscape today: From 1958 to 1968 he was director of the Library of the Deutsches Literaturarchiv (German Literature Archive) in Marbach, before becoming director of the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel in 1968. From 1992 to 2000 he was director of the Francke Foundation in Halle. Since his work in Marbach, Paul Raabe has been recognized as a leading expert on Expressionism. Besides works on the history of books and libraries, he is the author of numerous publications about Expressionist, Baroque, Enlightenment and Weimar Classic literature.

An introduction to the database by Paul Raabe can be found in the menu bar using the link Introduction.


(1) Raabe, Paul: Die Zeitschriften und Sammlungen des literarischen Expressionismus. Repertorium der Zeitschriften, Jahrbücher, Anthologien, Sammelwerke, Schriftenreihen und Almanache 1910-1921. Stuttgart: Metzler 1964. (Repertorien zur deutschen Literaturgeschichte 1)
(2) Index Expressionismus. Bibliographie der Beiträge in den Zeitschriften und Jahrbüchern des literarischen Expressionismus 1910-1925 Edited by Paul Raabe. 18 vols. Nendeln: Kraus-Thomson 1972.
(3) Paul Raabe: Die Autoren und Bücher des literarischen Expressionismus: ein bibliographisches Handbuch / In collaboration with Ingrid Hannich-Bode. 2nd revised and enlarged edition, including supplements and addenda 1985 - 1990. Stuttgart: Metzler 1992.
Deutsches Literatur-Lexikon. Biographisches und bibliographisches Handbuch. Founded by Wilhelm Kosch. Edited by Hubert Herkommer and Konrad Feilchenfeldt. 3rd completely revised edition. Volumes 1-27, Supplement Volumes I-VI. München: K. G. Saur 1968-2007.
Deutsches Literatur-Lexikon. Das 20. Jahrhundert. Biographisches und bibliographisches Handbuch.
Edited by Konrad Feilchenfeld. Volumes 1-11. München: K. G. Saur 1999-2008.