Wensinger and Lensing on Enzensberger

In memory of poet and essayist Hans Magnus Enzensberger, who recently passed away at the age of 93, retired German Studies professors Jerry Wensinger and Leo Lensing published commemorative articles in the “Geisteswissenschaften” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on February 15, 2023. For historical background, Enzensberger had been offered a yearlong fellowship at Wesleyan’s Institute for Advanced Studies (now the Center for the Humanities), but in January 1968 resigned after only a semester to move to Cuba “to work there for a substantial period of time,” as he explained in his resignation letter to Wesleyan president Etherington. On campus, he had been disturbed by the quiescent attitude towards the militarism of the Johnson administration, an attitude he found reflected in how people talked about US politics: “a new crop of words has been banished, by common consent, from polite society: words like “exploitation”  and “imperialism.” They have acquired a touch of obscenity. Political scientists have taken to paraphrases and circumlocution which sound like the neurotic euphemisms of the Victorians. Some sociologists have gone so far as to deny the very existence of a ruling class. Obviously, it is easier to abolish the word “exploitation” than the thing it designates; but then, to do away with the term is not to do away with the problem.”