Hugo Ball’s religious conversion

Lewer, D. (2023) Hugo Ball’s religious conversion. German Life and Letters, 76(3), pp. 376-391. (doi: 10.1111/glal.12378)

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This essay investigates the German ex-Dadaist Hugo Ball (1886–1927) and his 1920s work on religious conversion from Paul, Augustine and Francis to writers and poets in modernity. This intense engagement was rooted in Ball's own radical conversion, or ‘re-conversion’, to an austere form of the Catholicism of his childhood in 1920, just a few years after breaking with the Dada movement he had helped found in Zurich in 1916. In letters, books, his edited diaries and essays such as ‘Die religiöse Konversion’ of 1925, Ball wrestled with the phenomenon of conversion. He traced it in religious culture, monasticism, psychiatry and politics. This article explores Ball's imaginative emphasis on the condition of chaos that precedes resolution into ‘order’ in the convert. It considers his model of conversion not only as salvific but also as remedial and therapeutic. Further, it interrogates his connection of conversion with the breakdown of language in mysticism and in Dada. Ball's intensive study of the mystical theology of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and others provided much of the epistemological ground for this work. More provocative was his imagined possibility of collective national ‘conversion’ to Catholicism – for the whole of Germany.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Lewer, Dr Deborah
Authors: Lewer, D.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Journal Name:German Life and Letters
ISSN (Online):1468-0483
Published Online:21 May 2023
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2023 The Authors
First Published:First published in German Life and Letters 76(3):376-391
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons license

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