This book reads messianic expectation as the defining characteristic of German culture in the first decades of the twentieth century. It has long been accepted that the Expressionist movement in Germany was infused with a thoroughly messianic strain. Here, with unprecedented detail and focus, that strain is traced through the work of four important Expressionist playwrights: Ernst Barlach, Georg Kaiser, Ernst Toller and Franz Werfel. Moreover, these dramatists are brought into new and sustained dialogues with the theorists and philosophers of messianism who were their contemporaries: Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Martin Buber, Hermann Cohen, Gershom Scholem. In arguing, for example, that concepts like Bloch’s utopian self-encounter (
Selbstbegegnung) and Benjamin’s messianic now-time (
Jetztzeit) reappear as the framework for Expressionism’s staging of collective redemption in a new age, Anderson forges a previously underappreciated link in the study of Central European thought in the early twentieth century.