Literary primitivism in select poems and essays by Gottfried Benn reveals complex interrelations of primitivist discourse with modernism, colonialism, and fascism in Weimar Germany. Arguing that Benn explicitly enters the discourse of Weimar (post)colonialism in the mid-1920s with poems like “Erst wenn” and “Ostafrika,” this essay contextualizes Benn's colonial turn in the primitivist/modernist poetics of his earlier Rönne novellas and his brief turn to a fascist aesthetic in essays of the early 1930s. His primitivist poetic fantasy of the “Southern Word” becomes an imaginary palimpsest on which colonial and racial fantasies of self and other uneasily coincide as his literary imagination both merges with and exceeds the turbulent discursive currents of the Weimar period.

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