The Catastrophe of Cliché: Karl Kraus, Cruiskeen Lawn, and the Culture Industry



This essay argues that Karl Kraus and Myles na gCopaleen deserve to be analysed alongside each other specifically in relation to their critique of the culture industry and the influence of the cliché in the era of mass communications. It is contended that some aspects of Cruiskeen Lawn may be understood in the context of those whom Kraus influenced so much: the Frankfurt School theorists Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, in particular in Adorno’s essay on the German poet and feuilletonist Heinrich Heine. In conclusion, it is shown how, in cultures which are regulated by the printed word, to take on the misprinted, the clichéd, and the incompetent in the domain of language, as Kraus and na gCopaleen do, is a prerequisite activity to attacking the received ideas and mystifications of society at large.

* This essay was awarded the International Flann O'Brien Society's prize for 'Best Essay Length Study on a Brian O’Nolan Theme, 2015-16.'

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Keywords: Culture Industry, Heinrich Heine, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Karl Kraus

How to Cite: Tobias Harris, 'The Catastrophe of Cliché: Karl Kraus, Cruiskeen Lawn, and the Culture Industry,' The Parish Review: Journal of Flann O'Brien Studies 3, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 7-20. Available at: