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Georg Buechners evangelischer Religionsunterricht, Darmstadt, 1821--1831: Christlich-protestantische wurzeln sozialrevolutionaeren Engagements

Wendy Zlata Owanisian-Wagner, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Recent studies show that Buchner's use of biblical allusions in his literary and political writings reflect considerable knowledge of and interest in religious topics. What has been largely neglected however, is the inseparable tie between biblical themes and social implications in Buchner's works. By providing an in-depth look into Buchner's protestant religious education in Darmstadt from 1821-1831, the dissertation sheds new light on this aspect of Buchner's writings. Born into a protestant but not zealously religious middle-class family, Georg Buchner received his first formal religious education through protestant textbooks used in Religion classes in elementary school (Zarnack, Salzmann, Kohlrausch, Snell; 1821-1825). These textbooks focussed on the figure of Jesus, his compassion with and assistance to the poor and rejection of the rich (Kohlrausch's "Anleitungen"). Readings in German class supported this depiction by providing the students with readings that show the rich as predominantly exploitative and heartless monsters deserving punishment. In high school (1825-1831), Heinrich Palmer, Buchner's Religion teacher from 1827-1831, shifted the focus to a thorough knowledge of the Bible and to protestant heroism. Basing his classes on texts by Ziegenbein and Niemeyer, Palmer promulgated their views further in his weekly addresses from the pulpit. Traces of these teachings are evident in Buchner's high school writings. They also show Heinrich Palmer and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing as sources from whom Buchner enjoyed borrowing. As further evidence from minutes, diary entries, and court depositions (1832 to 1837) made by Buchner's predominantly protestant friends in Strassburg, Giessen, and Darmstadt shows, Buchner seems to have adopted the teachings from his elementary and high school years by placing the social gap between the rich and the poor at the heart of his belief that a social "reformation" could only be brought about through religion and the use of the Bible. While religious topics were also read and discussed in the context of other subjects, socio-religious thought and protestant heroism were at the heart of religious instruction and echo most loudly from Buchner's high school writings, from his political pamphlet Der Hessische Landbote (1834) and from the mission statement of the Gesellschaft der Menschenrechte. In view of these findings, Buchner's plays and the novella fragment Lenz are richly deserving of analysis in future studies.

Subject Area

Germanic literature|Language|Religious education|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Owanisian-Wagner, Wendy Zlata, "Georg Buechners evangelischer Religionsunterricht, Darmstadt, 1821--1831: Christlich-protestantische wurzeln sozialrevolutionaeren Engagements" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9809378.