Max Mell, dramatist
Hill, Joseph Francis Jr
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Despite the important role played by Max Mell in contemporary German literature, attested by his many literary honors, little is known about him in this country, mainly because no one has yet published either a biographical or critical interpretation of his work, here or in Europe. This dissertation is designed to contribute to a fuller understanding of Mell's works through an analysis and critical study of the eight dramatic works he has written to the present time. A complete bibliography of his entire literary output to date and articles, reviews, and other materials relating to him, among them several unpublished dissertations, has been included as an aid to further research. The study first presents information relative to Mell as a person, then continues through a discussion of the tradition of the popular drama and its modern revival to a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the individual dramas, whose themes range from the classical Sieben gegen Theben to a modernized Jeanne d'Arc. I have traced his earlier attempts in lyric and narrative prose, his sincere love of popular Austrian folk-tradition and history, his deep personal feeling of responsibility to his fellow man, his devotion to the unities, and his unshakable belief in Christian ethics. Many of the themes which we found in his prose and poetry later reappear more fully developed in his drama. Even prior to World War I, we find evidence of growth beyond the art-for-art's-sake-stage of his work appearing in his short stories and his poetry. Mell's experience at the front during World War I, and the misery and sufrering which he observed around him during the post-war period, strongly influenced his development, and during the ensuing decade, he manifests a deep feeling for struggling humanity and a responsibility to help mankind overcome its problems and apprehensions. The popular dramatic tradition and its revival have been traced in order to show Mell's position within this literary form which because of its association with the portrayal of simple and reverend concepts was the ideal vehicle for his ideas. In his later drama, Mell has turned to distinguished literary themes, and this has made necessary a comparison of these works with parallel dramas by other outstanding authors such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Schiller, Hebbel, Anouilh, Peguy, and Shaw. The analysis of his plays demonstrates the personal nature of the change which Mell believes must take place if mankind is to find its salvation, that is, the fact that each individual must take upon himself the responsibility for reflecting universal love to the fullest extent of which he is capable. Throughout his dramas, Mell's characters perform in an environment carefully chosen with a view to enhancing the mood and thought of the play. Much of their effectiveness is due to the carefully worked out psychological motivation which exhausts every alternative prior to an action, yet each has a common denominator, i.e. that the development which is needed for the salvation of mankind is an inner change resulting from the interaction of one personality upon another so that it finds its place within the harmony of nature.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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