Bathos is a stylistic device that can be used in all kinds of texts. The Bathos combines a higher value with a lower value. Through this contrast, which creates the stylistic figure, comedy, as well as drasticity can be expressed. The term is used primarily in literary studies and German studies, whereas students are rarely confronted with it in German.
The term is derived from the Greek (βάθος) and can be translated with depth. However, it is more about the broad synonyms of low or even sunken ones. This translation also explains better what the Bathos is all about.
“The flooding cost 13 lives.
I have a damp cellar since then. ”
For the reader, this statement appears to be irrelevant, since two “accidents” are equated with each other, which can hardly be compared with one another. However, the sentence can be regarded as a prime example of a bathos which combines two values (moral concepts), a high and a low one. The result can be an enormous drastic, but also funny:
“Noble man, milk rice is good!”
Of course, this verse is a disgrace of the sentence “Nobody is man, helpful and good!” From Goethe’s work “The Divine.” Nevertheless, it is obvious here that the stylistic means can also mean a certain comedy, since two very different values are connected with one another.
Very often the Bathos can also be found in expressionist poems. Jakob van Hoddis is to serve as an example of “worlds”.
The citizen flies from the pointed head the hat,
In all the air it echoes like shouting,
Roofers plunge and go in two
And on the coasts – one reads – the flood rises.
The storm is here, the wild seas pluck
On land to crush thick dams.
Most people have a cold.
The railroads fall from the bridges.
The poem is constructed from a hugging rhyme and a cross-rhyme and clearly points to the Bathos as a stylistic figure. The verses that signal this are the fourth and eighth (And on the coasts – read – the flood rises.) Most people have a cold.).
The strongest, of course, is the last, that is, the eighth verse in this series. If in all other verses quite drastic events are shown, the Bathos stands directly against it and points to the sniff, which on the other hand seems comical, but also “hard” in the overall picture.
The most important overview
The bathos combines two different values, which are very far apart. This can be funny, but also very macabre.
The style figure with the anticlimax is also related, with a reduction from the largest to the smallest. However, not only in terms of values.
The Bathos is not to be confused with the pathos, which in rhetoric describes an emotional, theatrical and tendentially exaggerated form of articulation.