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‘Daring, Unusual Things’: Bertolt Brecht’s Photo-Epigrams as Poetic Inventions

School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University, Melbourne 3800, Australia
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 73;
Received: 11 March 2019 / Revised: 8 April 2019 / Accepted: 9 April 2019 / Published: 10 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Sister Arts Since 1900: Poetry and the Visual Arts)
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This essay explores the aesthetics of Bertolt Brecht’s compositions of poetry with photography in the so-called photo-epigrams of his 1955 book War Primer. The photo-epigrams have mostly been viewed and appreciated as interventions in photography; but in this essay I aim to show their novelty and efficacy as poetic inventions. To do so, I draw on Karl Marx’s and Walter Benjamin’s views apropos the decline of poetry under modern, industrial capitalism to argue that Brecht, in his photo-epigrams, is responding to—and attempting to counter—a specific problem at the heart of modern poetry: the crisis in perceptibility and accessibility. By coupling poems with photographs—in unique and uniquely politicised ways—Brecht provides a resonant critique of the deadly ideologies of the ruling classes engaged in World War II, as well as a method for addressing the decline in the readability of poetry in the modern era. View Full-Text
Keywords: Brecht; War Primer; poetry; photography; Benjamin; Marx; photo-epigram; alienation; ideology Brecht; War Primer; poetry; photography; Benjamin; Marx; photo-epigram; alienation; ideology

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Alizadeh, A. ‘Daring, Unusual Things’: Bertolt Brecht’s Photo-Epigrams as Poetic Inventions. Humanities 2019, 8, 73.

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