[...] Believing that Baader was in control of his faculties and that his contribution was integral to Berlin Dada is almost a prerequisite to undertaking an examination of his work. The pioneering scholars had to concede, however, that Baader defined Dada very much according to his own rules. In an effort to understand and explain Baader's idiosyncratic contribution to Dada, two distinct methodological approaches emerged. One, pioneered by Hanne Bergius in a series of articles in the late 1970s but never developed into a full-length study, proposed, [...], that Baader's Dada work should be considered in terms of his own past, that is, his own earlier work as an architect and the intellectual currents - such as the philosophy of Max Stirner (1806-1856) and the general ethos of Lebensreform [Life Reform] - which informed him before the War. Bergius has maintained this perspective in her most recent writings, which foreground the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche.
Timothy Benson has taken a similar approach in his exemplary work on Raoul Hausmann (Raoul Hausmann. The Dada Years. Ph.D. University of Iowa, May 1985 - 2 volumes). Recognizing that Baader was responsible for introducing Hausmann to literary and philosophical ideas in the prewar period, benson closely examined the specific texts the two men read. Benson was the first scholar of Berlin Dada to delve deeply into the complex prewar intellectual milieu which, in his view, contained the seeds of Dada
[The most recent contribution starting from the same approach is the dissertation submitted in 2005 by Adrian V. Sudhalter, Johannes Baader and the Demise of Wilhelmine Culture: Architecture, Dada, and Social Critique, 1875-1920. Using the biographical model, chronological parameters, and retrospective orientation Sudhalter reconstructs Baader's biography until 1920, and recontextualizes the fragments found in his collages and assemblages.]
Stephen Foster has approached Baader from a very different perspective. Rather than looking backward into Baader's formative years, Foster looked forward, in effect, viewing Baader as a precursor to a kind of postmodern sensibility. Recognizing Baader's fascination with the media, Foster proposed that Baader viewed the world as constructed through the newspapers, and created roles for himself in accordance with this idea. For Foster, performance was the key to understanding Baader, whose Dada collages and assemblages were above all 'transactional' remnants of his overall performance as the 'Oberdada'.
Rainer Topitsch and Michael White, who have published more recently on Baader, have attempted to synthesize the findings and divergent approaches of their predecessors. In his master's thesis on Baader, presented at the Heinrich Heine University in 1995, Topitsch followed Foster's approach and made his own contribution through the discovery of a number of important early bibliographical sources.
White presents a detailed reading of Baader's Great-Plasto-Dio-Dada-Drama, which, although it does not introduce new research, lucidly summarizes former findings on this work and offers some interesting new insights.
Adrian V. Sudhalter, Johannes Baader and the Demise of Wilhelmine Culture (New York University 2005) 7-9.