Posted by: jayteea | Friday. 9 May 2008.

Glotz nicht so romantish

I feel like it’s time to explain myself…


I’m referring to the little quote at the top of this blog.  It’s a quote from well-known German dramatist/poet/critic/communist, Bertold Brecht.  I first discovered this dude when I applied his ideas about theater to Ernest Hemingway’s approach to writing (that is, haranguing and almost abusing the reader) in Death in the Afternoon (this was my senior thesis).  


Brecht is known for his dislike of “Aristotelian” drama; that is, drama that causes the reader to strongly identify with the protagonist and therefore neglect to question his or her authority and/or “rightness”.  As the story goes, he even put up big signs that said “Glotz nicht so romantisch!” (in English, “Don’t stare so romantically!”) to remind people to think about art critically, to question the hero—and the status quo—to not just sit back and relax, but to get off their butts after the show and make their newfound awareness an impetus for action.


I don’t think that this is just about art, either.  A lot of the time I drift through the day observing stuff… being life’s spectator, admiring everything around me, unconsciously agreeing with the way things are. 


Short story:  in Guatemala, tourists would come to my school taking photos of the students, especially the youngest ones.  After all, they’re so irresistibly photogenic, perfect subjects for vacation photos.  They knew that these children were homeless and/or impossibly poor, but they saw their happy faces and felt good.  I imagine they thought they performed a valiant deed, going to see the “real” Guatemala and becoming aware it’s many societal problems like poverty, homelessness, and malnutrition.  


I don’t want to be this kind of traveler—visiting different places, observing everything, taking a montón de fotos, idealizing the “natives”, maybe even donating a few dollars to someone’s cause.  Even noticing that bad stuff exists isn’t good enough.   I want to do something, help somehow, whether I’m on the road or at home.


For me, it’s easy to live life totally self-absorbed and only looking to my own happiness and comfort.  It’s easy to stare romantically at the world and love (or hate) it and let the days pass by without doing much.  The artistic side of me would love to do just that.  But  I think that art—and life—do not exist just for observation.  Claro, I’ll never stop doing things in my own interest or admiring life; however, I want to make it count…hopefully…for something.  Brecht’s quote is just my little “note to self”, reminding me that in order to fully aprovechar the time I have, I need to stop gaping, think critically, and start acting.  Cause otherwise I will just sit on my butt and look at Facebook all day.


(For more on Brecht’s life, literary technique, and legacy, you can take a look at this article.)




  1. I was wondering what that quote meant. It’s really good.

    And I agree with you about the fake travelers. Good post.

  2. We talk about Brecht all the time in the theater dept. It’s weird: all of the theater types absolutely HATE his work; they want to do all the touching realist/naturalist plays like Tennessee Williams, Ibsen, etc. They find Brecht’s style hopelessly off-putting. But I love it. I love his theories about keeping the audience self-aware about their pre-conceptions and assumptions, and I love how you applied it to life. And I also love how his theories, even in his own plays, are never fully realized. Even with all the devices he used to invoke the “verfremdungseffekt” (oh, man, it’s been so long since I’ve used any german) you can’t keep people from just blindly identifying with a character and getting emotionally involved. If you ever get the chance, see the musical “Urinetown”: it’s the best example of a Brechtian-style play that’s not by Brecht. Oh, man, I could talk to you about this stuff all day.
    P.S. miss you, beautiful

  3. Hmmm…I will have to see Urinetown. Thanks for the suggestion, Megan. P.S. I love you. Come back!

  4. I like how you write- sincere yet witty! i agree, that’s not the type of traveler I want to be either….even though you’re right Guatemalan kids are super photogenic. I can’t wait to see you soon! love Jess

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