University of Tasmania
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The \reality\" of cultural violence in the novels of Heinrich Böll"

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posted on 2023-05-28, 01:15 authored by Adcock, L
In this thesis, I offer a different perspective on the works of the acclaimed German author Heinrich B‚àö‚àÇll. I propose that a form of violence called cultural violence accurately reflects the \reality\" (\"Wirklichkeit\") that B‚àö‚àÇll strove to convey in his novels and that this expression of violence is a theme that unifies the author's body of works. Extensive research of existing literature corroborates the originality of this interpretation. Cultural violence was identified by the Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung. He defines it as violence involving aspects of culture such as ideologies and doctrines that incite and legitimise the harm individuals or institutions cause (Galtung \"Cultural Violence\" 291 295). Galtung's recognition of this form of violence came about through his research on violence and its different expressions which is an integral component of his quest to promote peace (Galtung \"Cultural Violence\" 291). While B‚àö‚àÇll passed away before Galtung developed his concept of cultural violence he too recognised that violence could result from the covert influence of societal and structural forces (B‚àö‚àÇll \"Drei Tage\" 406). B‚àö‚àÇll was particularly aware of the potential for unseen societal forces especially ideologies to give rise to violence as he spent his formative years in the political turmoil of the Third Reich. He attributed the cause of these unprecedented twelve years in German history to the \"idiotic blindness\" of Germans to \"political realities\" that facilitated Hitler's rise to power (B‚àö‚àÇll Erinnerung\" 518-519). To counter this ignorance and prevent a repetition of its violent consequences B‚àö‚àÇll sought to draw attention to and foster an understanding of these \"realities\" through the concepts of the \"topical\" (\"das Aktuelle\") and the \"reality\" (die Wirklichkeit\"). Here the \"topical\" represents the readily observable contemporary events and issues of everyday life and it is these topics that he centred his novels on (B‚àö‚àÇll \"Der Zeitgenosse und die Wirklichkeit\" 71). But B‚àö‚àÇll's narratives are not just shallow reflections of current issues (B‚àö‚àÇll \"Der Zeitgenosse und die Wirklichkeit\" 74). To him the \"topical\" was a fa‚àövüade that must be penetrated in order to reveal to his readers the \"reality\" of the hidden influences that serve to manipulate and shape it (B‚àö‚àÇll \"Der Zeitgenosse\" 71). While the origins of B‚àö‚àÇll's concepts related to the covert influence of the ideology of fascism he later identified a number of invisible societal forces such as the capitalist political ideology and doctrine religious ideology and language as being integral to understanding the \"reality\". But aspects of culture are of course abstract concepts that require an agency through which to exert their influence. For B‚àö‚àÇll this involved the second covert force that he identified as having the potential to lead to violence ‚Äö- structures namely institutions (B‚àö‚àÇll \"Drei Tage\" 406). It is the interaction between the cultural and institutional forces that shapes topical events and represents \"reality\". Examination of B‚àö‚àÇll's major works reveals the author's depiction of this interplay between the two covert forces as the incitement and legitimisation by ideologies and doctrines of the violence of institutions. Among the institutions B‚àö‚àÇll drew particular attention to are the German government and military the church and the press. I argue that B‚àö‚àÇll's \"reality\" of the shaping of the \"topical\" through a process in which aspects of culture are the source of the violence and institutions are the agents through which it is exerted encapsulates Galtung's concept of cultural violence. I propose that B‚àö‚àÇll's portrayal of this \"reality\" serves as a unifying element in his oeuvre through its consistent presence in his novels."


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