Disrupted Values, Erupting Culture: Cabaret and the Sexual Persona in Weimar Berlin
18 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2020
Date Written: January 2008
Examining the rapid pace of innovation and artistic growth in Weimar Berlin, I will address the particularly German and particularly inter-war conditions that created the Weimar artistic scene. I argue that the remarkable creative fecundity of that time and place was due largely to the economic disruption of dizzying inflation, which caused a seismic shift away from traditional sexual mores. I believe that the opening of the sexual arena to new freedoms, new practices, new expressiveness, led directly to the explosion of culture, especially in the performing arts, exemplified here by cabaret. Weimar Berlin was alive with a uniquely intoxicating sexual atmosphere, because, I will argue, of eroding middle-class values, economic pressures leading to the increased commodification of sex, new freedoms of expression, changing forms of womanhood, and the increased visibility of 'deviant' sexual personae through popular culture. Berlin, in this context, reverses conventional notions of causality: it is not always innovation that spurs social change, but also the reverse. Social change and the disruption of norms can create a hothouse atmosphere which accelerates the growth and ripening of innovative artistic forms.
Keywords: Weimar, Weimar Republic, Berlin, Germany, German history, cabaret, theater, sexuality, art
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