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Escapism , also flight from reality , flight from reality or flight from the world , describes the flight from or from the real world and the avoidance of it with its demands in favor of a pseudo reality, i.e. H. imaginary or possible better reality. The term is mostly used negatively in psychology and educational language. Escapism is understood as an attitude to escape or to escape, as a conscious or unconscious refusal of social goals and ideas for action.

Origin of the term

The term escapism developed in German from the word escapade - which initially stood in equestrian art for a false jump of a spirited horse, later translated for an " affair ", a prank or an adventure - since the middle of the 20th century synonymous with English escapism initially as a term in psychology, later the educational language for a tendency to escape from reality, addiction to distraction and pleasure, and a neurotic defense against unpleasant aspects and demands of reality . It comes from the loan word echappieren , French échapper , to a vulgar Latin verb meaning "to get away", actually: "to throw away the religious cap" (late Latin cappa ), and like the English escapism , to escape = to escape, via the old ( -north) French established.

Escapism Thesis in Media Psychology

In media psychology , escapism is an important motive for media use. According to the “escapism thesis”, media are used both to satisfy affective needs (escapism) and to satisfy cognitive needs (broadening of knowledge). In this approach, the media consumer is no longer examined as a recipient and pure stimulus recipient according to the stimulus-response model , but his motivation . In media research, escapism is assigned to the uses and gratifications approach , that is, media offerings are selected for escape from everyday life . According to this "escape concept" by Katz and Foulke, tensions generated by everyday social roles are reduced. Motives are therefore forgetting and escaping from one's own problems as well as passive relaxation and the generation of emotions and distraction from the rules and norms of reality.

The results of media escapism are identification with the lifestyles presented, the projection of one's own failure onto someone else's agents and compensation for open or unfulfilled wishes. According to Katz and Foulkes, the tensions that people build up in modern societies through exercising their roles in everyday life are deprivation , loneliness, and alienation . With the desire to reduce these tensions, people use media offers that serve as compensation. The escapism thesis is criticized in particular with regard to its lack of a further psychological foundation. Nonetheless, it is part of the established needs or motivation research in media studies .

Accusation of escapism in art

Occasionally, art in general, and poetry in particular, was accused of being a means of escaping reality. The image of the ivory tower in which the poet holed up and retreated from the real world was often used for this . This term was applied particularly to the art of Romanticism , such as the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin . Peter Handke encountered this accusation in his volume I am a resident of the ivory tower (1972). There he emphasizes the utopian character of art, which enables its change precisely because of its distance from reality.

The writer JRR Tolkien in 1939 gave a well-received lecture On Fairy-Stories ( Beyond Wonderland ), in which he the principles of later developing Fantasy described genre and criticized the condemnation of escapism:

“Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? "

“Why should someone be despised who is in prison trying to get out and go home? Or, if that is not possible: when he thinks about and speaks about other topics than guards and dungeon walls? "

In this quote Tolkien expresses his dissatisfaction with the modern world, which he calls "prison". He also points out the possibility of coping with everyday life. In his lecture, Tolkien further differentiates between two different forms of escape, which he assesses differently: on the one hand, the escape of the deserter , whom he describes as a coward, and, on the other hand, the escape of the prisoner, whose will to escape cannot be blamed he sees it as a form of political resistance . He sees literature - as Sigmund Freud did in his essay The Poet and Fantasizing (1907) - as a possibility of imaginatively fulfilling wishes and longings that the “real” world cannot provide.

Musical escapism

King Ludwig II of Bavaria as "King Lohengrin " with harp and Rhine daughters , a classic case of romantic-musical escapism that fled politics into the works of Richard Wagner (caricature from Der Flea , 1885).

According to the philosopher and music aesthetician Andreas Dorschel , classical music has become a preferred medium of escapism in Europe since the 1790s . The Danish literary scholar Michael Karlsson Pedersen summed up Dorschel's characterization of the beginnings of musical escapism in the history of ideas as follows:

“[The] tradition going back to the early romantic era […] begins […] with Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder's figure of Kapellmeister Joseph Berglinger from the pouring out of the heart of an art-loving monastery brother (1797) and the fantasies about art (1799), which was an escape undertakes the world through music: 'Good for those who, when the earthly ground wobbles under their feet, can save themselves with cheerful senses on airy tones', exclaims the volatile musician. The sounds, he says, make you 'independent of the world'. However, this model of a romantic 'volatilization of reality' in the medium of music does not evoke a clear state of euphoria, but rather, because it is ultimately an 'escape into the self', rather results in isolation, it comes to a division between the self and the world. The air-flight of the musical escapist soaring in the floating tones crashes into self-critical doubt. In this way the romantic escape contains its own criticism. ""

The extensions of this romantic paradigm extend, mostly in a dedifferentiated form, to pop music of the 20th and 21st centuries. In this context, escapism is often contrasted with insubordination. The American musicologist Robert Walser, on the other hand, emphasizes the underlying commonality: "Rebellion and escapism are always movements away from something towards something else." ("[R] ebellion and escapism are always movements away from something, toward something else.")

See also


  • Andreas Dorschel : Getting lost in the world. About musical escapism . In: Merkur 66 (2012), no. 2, pp. 135–142.
  • Elihu Katz, David Foulkes: On the Use of Mass Media as “Escape”: Clarification of a Concept . In: The Public Opinion Quarterly . Vol. 26, No. 3 , 1962, ISSN  0033-362X , p. 377-388 .
  • Werner Strodthoff: Stefan George. Criticism of civilization and escapism (=  studies on modern literature . Volume 1 ). Bouvier, Bonn 1976, ISBN 3-416-01281-X (About Stefan George ; also dissertation at the University of Bonn , 1975).
  • Oliver Bidlo : Longing for Middle-earth? Oldib, Essen 2003, ISBN 3-8330-0464-9 .

Web links

Wiktionary: escapism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Alexander Arweiler, Melanie Möller: From self-understanding in antiquity and modern times. Walter de Gruyter, 2008, p. 165,
  2. ^ Bertelsmann Universal Lexicon. Volume 5: Dri-Fet, p. 245.
  3. ^ Institute for German Language: German Foreign Dictionary . Volume 5: Eau de Cologne - Futurism. De Gruyter, 2004, p. 242
  4. Escapism .; Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Heinz Bonfadelli: New Perspectives: Applying Media as Social Action. ( Memento from September 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 2.25 MB) p. 7.
  6. ^ Petra Sandhagen: Media Psychology. ( Memento of July 11, 2003 in the Internet Archive ) p. 64
  7. ^ Bernad Batinic, Markus Appel: Medienpsychologie. Springer-Verlag, 2008.
  8. etmar Müller: Di formal criteria of news reception on the Internet . (PDF) p. 35
  9. Quoted from Frank Weinreich : About fairy tales. Tolkien's view of the fantastic. ( Memento from October 7, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), October 1999.
  10. Andreas Dorschel, The world gets lost. About musical escapism. In: Merkur 66 (2012), issue 2, pp. 135–142.
  11. Michael Karlsson Pedersen, Trembling and Doubt. About musical escapism in Nietzsche's 'Venice' poem. In: Christian Benne / Claus Zittel (eds.), Nietzsche and the poetry. A compendium. Metzler, Stuttgart 2017, pp. 299-309, especially pp. 300-301, cf. P. 308.
  12. See Richard Young (ed.), Music, Popular Culture, Identities ( Critical Studies , Vol. 19). Rodopi, Amsterdam - New York, NY 2002, p. 222. The US literary scholar John P. McCombe even speaks of a “neo-romantic aesthetic” with a view to the Beatles: Not 'Only Sleeping': The Beatles and a Neo-Romantic Aesthetic of indolence. In: Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 44 (2011), Issue 2, pp. 137–152.
  13. ^ Robert Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 1993, pp. Xvii, cf. P. 19; similar to Alex DiBlasi / Victoria Willis (eds.), Geek Rock: An Exploration of Music and Subculture. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham 2014, p. 143.