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Treading a Fine Line: Progressive Patriotism in Practice in the Left-Wing Journalism of the Weimar Republic

Citation: Arscott, Jack (2023) Treading a Fine Line: Progressive Patriotism in Practice in the Left-Wing Journalism of the Weimar Republic. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.

Jack Arscott PhD Thesis Final.pdf

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This doctoral thesis presents a multi-dimensional study of left-wing patriotism in the weekly German journal Die Weltbühne, based on close textual analysis of its output over the fifteen-year period separating the end of the First World War and Hitler’s rise to power. It proposes three different but interlocking prisms through which to scrutinise the journal’s patriotism: regionalism, internationalism and socialism. By considering each of these in turn, the thesis provides a cross-section of a phenomenon that has been strikingly under-researched in Weimar scholarship. It thereby serves to expose a long-standing academic bias in favour of teleological readings of inter-war German culture that emphasise the eventual triumph of fascist nationalism and allow little room for the contemplation of alternative patriotic visions.

In methodological terms, this is a literary study that mines its primary source for evidence of its subjects’ emotional and intellectual relationship with their country, in all its complexity and outright contradiction. It is also, inevitably, a contribution to our understanding of the period of German history in which the articles in question were written in that it draws attention to an often overlooked constituency: the left-wing patriots of the Weimar Republic. First and foremost, however, it is a literary engagement with a cultural phenomenon. This thesis does not seek to change historians’ minds either about the importance of particular historical events or about how they happened. Instead, it investigates the emergence and metamorphosis of an elusive but widespread idea against the backdrop of the inter-war period and in response to rapidly changing circumstances on both the domestic and international scene.

Appearing at a time of renascent right-wing nationalism and political polarisation, this thesis can also be regarded as a contribution to public discourse outside the academic sphere. Although it is a case study of a single publication at a finite historical moment, its observations need not be treated as relevant only to the period, or even the country, under discussion. The productive tensions it reveals between the three world views identified above and the basic patriotic idea are instructive for any modern reader interested in the perennial struggle between right and left over how to define and serve the national interest. This thesis demonstrates the possibility not only of nurturing an affinity with regional, international and ideological communities at the same time, but of channelling these ostensibly competing loyalties into a patriotic commitment to one’s nation.

Creators: Arscott, Jack and
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Keywords: Patriotism, nationalism, Weimar, inter-war, Germany, left-wing, progressive, journalism, journal, newspaper, Die Weltbuehne, regionalism, internationalism, socialism, Heimat
Divisions: Institute of Modern Languages Research
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 20 February 2023 (accepted)


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