Skip to main content
Login | Suomeksi | På svenska | In English

Browsing by Author "Kurki, Emma-Karoliina"

Sort by: Order: Results:

  • Kurki, Emma-Karoliina (2016)
    I analyze the image of the 'Prussian lieutenant' in the Munich-based satirical magazine Simplicissimus in the period 1896–1914. Simplicissimus could be loosely described as liberal–bourgeois and is known for its cartoons of high artistic quality. The main source corpus is made up of 291 of these cartoons featuring junior officers, published in the magazine during the period. I aim to analyze how the satirists picture the lieutenant, how he is or possibly is not ridiculed, and what the answers might tell us about the limits and possibilities of satire in Wilhelmine Germany. In addition to being an officer, the 'Prussian lieutenant' was an exceedingly popular stereotype in his time. Contemporaries and later historians of the German Empire alike have interpreted and applied this stereotype to various ends. I approach the character of the lieutenant through Roland Barthes’ semiotic concept of the myth. Inspired by new military history and the study of men and masculinities, I also analyze him as a particular image of man that the satirists seek to ridicule by gendered means. In the cartoons of Simplicissimus, the lieutenant is almost inevitably depicted as a member of the East Elbian landowning Junker nobility, at his most typical serving in an exclusive Guard cavalry regiment. His colleagues of common birth are all but unseen. The lieutenant concentrates on enjoying his life of ease and luxury in a privileged position and hardly corresponds to the lofty ideals of his profession. His authority and possible appeal stem from his position as an officer rather than personal qualities: he is physically weak and mentally restricted to his narrow sphere of life. However, he is also represented as a ladies’ man, in erotic situations and even advertisements, which can hardly be judged unsympathetic. As regards war and violence, his passivity occasionally causes him to join with the satirists in condemning aggressive politics such as the colonial enterprise. In the more menacing, symbolic cartoons, he appears as an unambiguous shorthand for militarism and coercion. The mythical lieutenant crosses paths with real-life ones when Simplicissimus satirists comment on contemporary scandals. In conjunction with these cases in particular, it is readily seen that the protagonist of the lieutenant cartoons is no guarantee for truth. Some of the cartoons considered are sympathetic or purely entertaining. Following the logic of the myth, the character of the Guard lieutenant may always hide behind the fact that he does not represent anyone in particular. The officer cartoons did upset contemporary authorities, but evidence suggests they were enjoyed by officers themselves.