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Introduction As scholarship on Georg Btlchner continues to increase in both num- ber and scope, the significance of his monumental literary contributions becomes overwhelmingly evident. Though his twenty- three year old life was tragically ended by an undiagnosed but probably typhus infection, Buchner's few but precursory realistic works not only heavily influenced literary movements and their representatives ranging from Hauptmann to Brecht, but will undoubtedly influence future trends as well. Georg Btlchner was born in the village of Goddelau near Darmstadt on October 17, , the oldest of six children.
Ernst Btlchner, whose professional career had begun as a field surgeon first in the Dutch Army and then in Napoleon's Old Guard. Georg' s father, who had graduated as a medical doctor at Giessen, was awarded the prestigious position of chief medical councilor in Darmstadt and took up a highly successful general practice there when Georg was three years old.
The energy and discipline of the father's character seemed to be those of a self-made man who subordinated all his interests to the attainment of professional success. Btlchner soon decided that Georg should follow his path to the medical arts. The boy did indeed possess a naturally inquiring mind of a strongly scientific inclination; but though he en- rolled in medical studies at Strasbourg in November, , it is also known that Georg experienced unhappy conflict with his father. Although unable to withstand her husband's dominant personality, she was able to give her son some support in his conflict with his father.
It was she who stimulated the imaginations of their children and taught them to love nature and poetry. Young Georg Btlchner first heard the fairy tales and folk songs he never ceased to love from his mother, who also introduced him to the poetry of Schiller, Korner, and von Matthisson and to the prose of Jean Paul. The father conflict, love for nature, fascination with fairy tales and folk songs, and puzzlement over religious values were not only strong influences on his life, but also manifested them- selves as essential elements in the two works which this study will treat , Lenz and Woyzeck.
Some of Btlchner's siblings were better known than he throughout the greater part of the nineteenth century. His brother Ludwig wrote a pop- ular and influential book on philosophical materialism, Kraft und Stoff ; Luise was one of the most successful women writers of the time and an early champion of the feminist movement; Wilhelm, a pharmacist and chem- ist, perfected a method for producing artificial ultramarine and became wealthy as the owner of a dye factory; another brother, Alexander, be- came a respected professor of literature at a French university.
But despite similar interests and noteworthy contributions in pursuits re- lated to those of their older brother, none of Btlchner's siblings had any idea of his true accomplishments. Just prior to his matriculation as a medical student at Strasbourg, VI Btichner graduated from the DarmstMdter Gymnasium with a final essay de- fending Cato's suicide; in fact, in each of his three major essays at the gymnasium Btichner chose to write on suicide, which he considered an affirmation of the existence of free will.
From some descriptions given by school friends, Btichner is depicted as entirely independent in thought and action through his striving for substantiality and truth, boldly skeptical toward religion yet tolerant of the ideas and beliefs of others, and guided in his taste for literature by his love for truth and authen- ticity; among his favorites were Shakespeare, Homer, Goethe his favorite work of German literature was Faust , Aeschylus and Sophocles, followed by Jean Paul and the major romantics.
While at Strasbourg, Btichner became an eager, receptive student and also took the opportunity denied him in his homeland with its stiff poli- tical restrictions and censorship to vent his youthful enthusiasm at an occasional political rally or march. There is a kernel of truth in the misleading statement that Georg Btichner was a revolutionary without a revolution; but Btichner was intellectually astute enough to realize that a "revolution from above" could never work he thus rejected the philo- sophy of the "Young Germans" , because of the impossible task of over- coming the rift between the educated and uneducated.
This same realiza- tion soon befell many young, idealistic Russian intellectuals who were trying to win over the peasants. It is one of the intents of this study to show that Btichner, perhaps sometimes disillusioned but with a keen awareness of the reality of his time, did not write a work such as Woyzeck as a call to arms, but rather succeeded, to a degree of realistic por- trayal never before attained, in depicting the plight, suffering and essence of man in an extreme condition.
While at Strasbourg he had become engaged to Minna, the daughter of his landlord, Pastor J. Jaegle, but at his own insistence the engagement was kept a secret. His letters to Minna and to others shed light on Btlchner' s true thoughts and concerns in a given period. It is clear, for example, that Btlchner discovered that man is a puppet, contolled by his inescapable nature and by forces which he does not and cannot control.
Despite this disillusionary discovery, Btlchner proceeded to write The Hessian Courier in the early spring of which aimed to inform the public of unjust and inhumanitarian practices by the aris- tocracy, but which did not reach most peasants, who were frightened of possible punitive action for merely possessing a copy of this pamphlet. In January of the twenty-one year old Btlchner began writing his first play, Dantons Tod. In less than five weeks he completed it and sent it to Karl Gutzkow, editor of the literary section of the periodical The Phoenix, who heeded Btlchner' s plea for quick approval and money for his flight to France — a warrant for Btlchner 's arrest was later issued.
On March 9, Btlchner fled to Strasbourg through the financial help of his mother and brother Wilhelm. At Strasbourg — this time as a refugee and without a passport — he began reading comparative anatomy and philo- sophy, resolved to make university teaching his career, and he concen- trated, against his father's wishes for an emphasis on general practice, on the theoretical foundations of the medical sciences. Btlchner had looked Vlll forward to contributing on a limited basis so that his studies would not suffer to a new periodical, The German Review Die deutsche Revue , edited by Gutzkow and Ludolf Wienbarg.
Although Btichner, in October, , identified an essay on Lenz as a planned piece for contribution, the journal was banned before its first issue. In the winter semester Btlchner turned to dissecting and experimenting. His only comedy, Leonce und Lena , was written for a con- test but belatedly entered sponsored by the Cotta publishers of Weimar in the early summer of In October, after a visit from his mother and sister, he left Strasbourg for Ztirich, where he received the Doc- torate of Philosophy; he was appointed Privatdozent at Zurich University and inaugurated his course on the comparative anatomy of fishes and am- phiba with a lecture on their cranial nerves.
Later that year he wrote Woyzeck , which he reworked; Btlchner had written in September that his literary works could not be finished at a definite time like the tailor with his garment. Btlchner made excessive demands upon himself. His pace did not slacken in Zttrich, but rather drove him to exhaustion as he worked with his scalpel by day and read and wrote by night. He died after an illness lasting seventeen days on February 19, Both these works depict irrationality resulting from extreme human conditions.
The form, frequency, and intensity of madness sharply differs in the two works: In Lenz , where madness is a major factor throughout the novella, all three elements form, frequency, intensity have been represented on two pages of charts in accordance with the objective goal but admittedly with subjective interpretation of graphically plotting the mental aber- IX rations of the protagonist. Woyzeck does not contain the constant, sustained vacillations of mental disturbance, but represents no lesser degree of irrational intensity through the act of murder.
This study also readily concedes the problematic concerns inherent in any work which attempts to define or evaluate reality. This is particularly true in the case of Lenz which certainly explains its greater emphasis with as many as four different levels of reality — that of Lenz, all other characters taken collectively, which is a necessary fiction in itself!
Lenz The importance of Georg Buchner's Lenz to German literature can be measured in part by the numerous and extreme accolades accorded it by prominent literary critics of Germanistik. More than one scholar has compared Buchner's talent to that of the great Goethe. Lenz ' s momentous impact resulted in its precursory role for later naturalism and existentialism. It may be reasonably assumed that Buchner's scientific background and gifts of observation, analysis, and perceptiveness served as a cata- lyst for a strong realistic tendency which impelled him in both Lenz and Woyzeck to base his work on historical documents.
Furthermore, it is logical to assume that Buchner, with his emphasis on empiricism, was bound to be attracted by a case such as that of Jacob Michael Reinhold Lenz, who at the very least must have intensely aroused Buchner's scien- tific curiosity. Not only was J. Lenz's vacillating behavior if not condition of mental aberrations cause for Buchner's interest, but his poetic skill could not have escaped the attention of young Buchner, who had shown an early penchant for creative literature himself. In choosing J. Lenz as his historical model, Btlchner most certainly could have found a worse subject.
According to Ronald Hauser, the contributions of this lyric poet and dramatist of the Storm and Stess period "must be considered second only to Goethe's. Hauser writes: Danton , after all, proves Btlchner' s fascination with all matters pertaining to the mind and its functions, including the question of insanity. The scientific re- search which led to the writing of the two treatises, 'On the Nervous System of the Barbel,' and 'On the Cranial Nerves' shows that Btlchner 's interest in the nevous system was neither casual nor purely specula- tive.
In fact, it would hardly be an exaggeration to recognize a driving preoccupation here. Btlchner 's professional interests, both as a writer and as a scientist, quite naturally converged upon the figure of Lenz. The exact dates during which Btlchner wrote his only piece of nara- tive prose are not known, but the probable period of its composition was November-December, In October of that year Btlchner, still on his first stay in Strasbourg, wrote his parents about his intention to write an article on Lenz for Die deutsche Revue.
Btlchner 's initial interest in J. Lenz may have coincided with the first appearance of the latter 's collected works in , edited by Tieck. In any case, Maurice Benn notes a quotation from Lenz ' s poem about Friederike Brion, "Die Liebe auf dem Land", in Btlchner 's letter to his fiancee Minna Jaegle of March, , and adds: "The depth and persistence of Friederike 's love for her faithless lover Goethe, so admirably expressed in these lines, explains the jealousy which Btlchner ascribes to Lenz in the Novelle and which is such an important motif in it.
The themes of madness and social isolation are recurrent in all of Btlchner's works. Roy Cowen defines Btlchner's realistic treatment of these themes by contrasting them to other literary works of that time: "In contrast to idealistic drama, Btlchner's works preclude any escape from the physicality of conscience into a spiritual realm. The only way in which his characters can eliminate the pain of conscience is by insanity or by a rejection of individuality through association with social or religious values. John Parker's remark on Btlchner's intent in the Kunst- gesprSch could not possibly be more apropos to the main thrust of this study: "In his attack on idealism Btichner is concerned with the ideal- istic distortion of reality and the idealistic blindness to reality.
The sole exception to this lack of emphasis on a historical-documentary basis will be those matters which might shed light on the distortion of reality through madness in Btlchner's characters. As portrayed by Btichner, Woyzeck's madness, which culminates in a single main act of crime, is much easier to comprehend than that of the more complex character Lenz. A diagnosis of Lenz ' s insanity would therefore seem in order as a starting point.
A Diagnosis of Lenz's Illness Recently there appeared a book in which the author, William Reeve, claims that through the character Lenz, Btlchner succeeded in giving an objective perspective with depictions in almost clinical detail of the psychological symptoms of a form of schizophrenia. In praising Btlchner 's near-clinical details, Reeve was completely correct. Btlchner' s scientific background obviously aided in his realistic portrayal of Lenz's madness, but the combination of this background with the author's narrative tech- nique , through which Lenz ' s inner thoughts are extensively revealed to the reader, produces an amazingly effective account.
Lenz's dreams may signify a guilt complex. He imagines his mother with roses, and he speaks of a certain girl, perhaps a former girl friend who did net return his love. The reader does not know whether Lenz in fact killed these women or not; it is never made quite clear and could be real or his delusion.
In any event Lenz seems to believe that he could not help his mother or the girl, and that he somehow destroyed them. In such cases as these it is possible that Lenz experiences guilt because of his own anger, which he has directed against these two women, and therefore he punishes himself. He may suffer delusions of sin and guilt, all of which could culminate in the mistaken belief — whether or not based on reality — that he has committed some unforgivable sin beyond even God's mercy.
This would explain why he feels so close to Oberlin, who for Lenz not only plays a father role, but also offers one possible path to reli- gious understanding. The father- son, or here the father-child relationship, is quite important in this work. One need only note the many characteristics g of Lenz's childlike qualities "die blonden Locken"; "das anmutige Kindergesicht Lenzens" [p. When Kaufmann explains to Lenz that Lenz's father wants his son back home, Lenz refuses, saying: "Hier weg, weg! Toll werden dort? Lenz has sub- stituted Oberlin for his father.
It becomes quite evident that Lenz possesses an extremely negative attitude toward his father. The second reason Lenz feels close to Oberlin stems from Lenz ' s mixed views on religion. Lenz undoubtedly has strong religious feel- ings, but they are ambivalent during church service, "ein susses Ge- fflhl unendlichen Wohls" [p. Although he seeks God, he bears intense ill will against the Almighty; this extremely negative attitude possibly results from his father, since God is also a father- image.
Because of his deep depression Lenz suffers nihilistic illusions, which underscore such expressions as "er war im Leeren" [p. Lenz's severe depression exceeds grief — that is the nihilistic element. He suffers pain jumps into the water, injures himself just to know that he is alive. Pain, then, be- comes a confirmation of life in the physical sense of the word and a means to overcome his anxiety. It seems that Lenz is on a course toward suicide or he believes he is on this course — from the text one cannot be certain.
Intense anxiety explains the probable cause for his jump into the cold water — to get sick and possibly die. At the end of the sory when something bursts out in the courtyard, the reader assumes that Lenz has died. Indeed, "Die Kindsmagd kam todtblass und ganz zitternd Concerning Lenz and suicide it should also be noted that Btichner has not employed any lesser stylistic device here to heighten suspense.
Lenz wants to kill himself because he feels worthless. Reality has be- come so distorted for him that he believes he deserves to die because he has done something terrible. For his part there exists an ambivalence toward dying — he wants to die, yet also to live. Lenz tries to bring the child back to life, for if he could resurrect her, such power might also revive himself. As part of his religious ambivalence, Lenz fears what God will do to him if he does commit suicide, and this is also in part what keeps him alive.
One further note on conflicting elements: There is much in this work which reflects good against evil — God as good or evil punitive ; good father Oberlin versus evil father Lenz's own father ; life against death; art as beautiful positive or not. Without question, Lenz, and perhaps Btlchner, had considerable doubt over what is good or evil.
In concluding the diagnosis, it should be stressed that Lenz suffers extreme remorse and guilt over something he either did in the past or be- lieves that he did. Even if he did nothing wrong, it is still likely that he condemns himself for having feelings of anger. He talks about murder, speaks of his mother dying, blasphemes God, becomes very agitated over his father very symbolic , and begins to realize that Oberlin cannot help him.
All these characteristic pieces fit together and indicate an obvious anger, and it is this anger which compels him to feel guilt. Through the excellent portrayal of Lenz's inner thought processes Buchner unquestionably can be considered a forerunner of the later psychological novels of Dostoevsky and Kafka.
The Portrayal of Psychological Reality in Lenz Through careful observation of actions and dialogue one may approach Lenz and its main character from the viewpoint of modern clinical psy- chology. Indeed, this approach is one important aspect of numerous considerations concerning Lenz , and has just been treated in the above diagnosis.
But it must be emphasized that Lenz is much more a literary masterpiece than a clinical study.
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Even those clinical aspects received so enthusiastically by psychologists owe their substance to Buchner 's splendid imagery and style. As Ludwig Btlttner has put it: "Ohne die Erhebung in das dicterische Bild ware Lenz eine heute lahgst vergessene Krankheitsgeschichte geblieben. Das Kunstwerk selbst, seine Ssthetische Form und stilistische Ausdruckskraf t , kann medizinisch nicht erfasst und interpretiert werden.
It is, of course, Lenz's conception of reality which is distorted? The theme of isolation occurs often among Buchner' s protagonists, but only in Lenz does a character experience such complete delusion through 8 abandonment by nature, man, and God: nature is "nasskalt" [p. Concerning this latter point, it is as if the first scene reflects, at least symbolically, Lenz's futile reaching for God he is closer to Him in the mountains.
Cold, dampness, storms, and powerful thunder all confront Lenz, who had at first been unconcerned and unfatigued. Yet this first glimpse of Lenz that Btichner gives us is more than just a microcosm of man versus nature. Stylistically through verb repetition "Anfangs dr3ngte es ihm in der Brust, wenn das Gestein so weg sprang. This enormous expanse of landscape diminishes Lenz beyond the point of isolation, and he becomes so com- pletely absorbed that his reactions are almost subconscious "er wusste von nichts mehr" [p.
Lenz felt gripped by a nameless fear and believed he was in a terrible void just before it seemed to him that he was being followed by something horrible, which the narrator portentiously characterizes " Walter Hinck, who treats the natural background in Lenz from a more integrated point of view and with greater insight than that of several other critics, suggests that the framed setting helps depict the abnormal figure of Lenz as true.
That is, there are enormous rifts in the world, and in Lenz Btlchner shows not only the rift between Lenz and other people, but be- tween man and nature, which conquers man's reality. Just as Dostoevsky's character Raskol'nikov in Crime and Punishment undergoes relentless mental anguish, so does Lenz suffer intolerable mental stress to the point of commiting bizarre actions comprehensible only to his own inner reality.
Yet Raskol'nikov with full mental faculties is tormented by the guilt of his physical crime, murder. Lenz but not Woyzeck, who will be treated later! Lenz's attempt to resurrect the child illustrates the religious aspect discussed in more detail below of Lenz's irrational thinking, but at this point a non-religious, non-clinical approach concerning his madness might seem in order. While investigating the various examples and implications of Lenz's madness may lead one to conclude that there are different levels of reality, each stemming from its own set of causal relationships, a few scholars attempt to downgrade Lenz's insanity to "mental disturbances" or "reactions" to socio-political pressures.
False assumptions, from which only false deductions may follow despite some logical grains of truth used in discussion, should be avoided. A good example of this type of misguided approach is Janet King's article, in which the author states: I suggest that Btlchner does not view Lenz ' s condi- tion as hermetic. Rather, the author is presenting social conditions in a causal relationship to Lenz's aberrant behavior. Btlchner has reconstructed the ex- ternally imposed pressures and constraints to which Lenz was subjected and depicted his mental disturbance as a reaction to boundaries imposed by social pressures.
To be sure, German literature includes many works with a definitive historical basis — Btlchner's own Dantons Tod , to cite only one of numerous examples. Such works continue to be the object of the most detailed historical litmus tests which critics have ever devised. Yet art may speak for itself and stand apart from historical and moral judgments. Lenz may well have been a sane, albeit bizarre individual, but that says nothing about Btlchner's Lenz and the way Btlchner portrayed him. Passages which illustrate Lenz's distorted reality caused by mad- ness permeate the novella, are largely self-evident, and require no enumeration.
Their derivation, inter-relationship, and function, how- ever, constitute the essence of Btlchner's work and make it the literary 11 masterpiece that it is. If one observes and carefully considers the vacillations of Lenz's rationality, which occur with a certain degree of predictability discussed in more detail below , there is one significant passage which any serious study of Btichner's Lenz could not possibly underestimate — the so-called Kunstgesprach , or Lenz's erudite discussion with Kaufmann on art.
The Discussion of Art A great many articles have been written on the function of the Kunst- gesprSch, which occurs about half-way through the work. The term "half- way" is used only to define placement; Benno von Wiese contends that the Kunstgesprach marks the middle of the novella, but Erna Neuse and Peter Jansen Kunstgesprach occurs "just before the middle" believe that Ober- lin's departure for Switzerland marks that position. Jansen, who calls the discussion on art "an island of sanity in a sea of madness," places great emphasis on the structural function of the conversation: "Tacitly or indeed overtly such an approach [considering the Kunstgesprach solely in terms of its content, neglecting the structural function of the pas- sage] to a pivotal part of the work presupposes a serious compositional flaw in Bochner's narrative, since it either ignores or denies the author's concern with the structural congruity and his success in achieving it.
According to Jansen, the opinion that BCchner deviated from historical events in order to es- pouse his own views is so widespread that "it has generally been over- looked how carefully Btichner prepares for the insertion of the Kunstgesprach, 12 taking great pains to relate it to the protagonist's experience and thus to imbed it firmly in the narrative context.
Indeed, some of the changes from the source in other parts of the work seem to serve no other pur- pose. Valid points may be made for both sides. Ronald Hauser writes that Lenz's attack on idealism in lit- erature does not really merit thematic support in terms of the main idea of Lenz a young man's battle against madness and correctly adds that previous context demonstrates Btlchner's actual de-emphasis in the realm of ideas.
But assuming that the character Lenz possessed from the very beginning of the novella the same innate views and the potential to express them, is it not also plausible that simply a no peaceful state of mind and b no opportunity to espouse his views on art really occurred before the Kunstgesprach? Another critic, while underscoring the non-compliance of the Kunst - gesprach to the historical Oberlin's diary, nevertheless cites some similarity between Btlchner's protagonist and J. Yet Walter Hinck cautiously adds: Die Ubereinstimmungen sollten aber den unterschied- lichen historischen Ort beider Dichter nicht vergessen machen.
Lenz entwirft seine Theorie gegen den Klass- izismus Gottscheds und gegen die - von Lessing gerade neu kanonisierte - aristotelische Dramenpoetik. Die grosse Literaturepoche , die Lenz mit heraufftlhren half, vergass sein Programm wieder. Btlchner steht jenseits dieser Epoche und fasst seine Asthetik als einen Gegen- entwurf gegen die des klassisch-romantischen ,Idealismus' auf. Analyzing the work in this way, one is justified in consider- ing the object of observation an accomplished, successful writer, a status which is granted Lenz even before the Kunstgesprgch.
When Lenz first meets Oberlin, the latter knows of his name and has already read some of his plays. Just before the KunstgesprSch Lenz speaks to Oberlin about life and soul for every form in nature — rocks, metals, water, plants, etc. Lower forms in nature would enjoy a greater degree of tranquility [p. By his own definition, Lenz, not only a higher form man but also a sensitive poet, is certainly one who can be so deeply affected.
As is evident in the opening mountain scene, a poet in such magnificent surroundings should be overwhelmed by nature's splendor. But the joy of nature's beauty is juxtaposed with the awesome power and harsh reality of nature's indiffer- ence to man, the dionysian side of nature which shakes the susceptible Lenz to his foundations and intensifies his realization of man's isola- tion and impotence. The inversion produced by Lenz's distorted reality here also shows the great extent to which man may suffer, a theme common to other works by Btichner.
The third-person narrative technique allows the reader to experience the extreme sensitivity of Lenz's mind. The newly developed aesthetic forms allow both the older forms of theatre and the theoretical concepts used to analyse them to appear in a changed light. To be sure: one always has to be cautious with the assertion of caesuras in the history of an art form, above all when they are of a very recent date. There may be a danger in overestimating the depth of the rupture postulated here: the destruction of the foundations of dramatic theatre — which after all have been valid for hundreds of years — and the radical transformation of scenic practice in the ambiguous light of media culture.
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But the obverse danger especially in academia of perceiving the new always as only a variant of the well known seems to threaten with yet more disastrous misjudgments and blindness. It is concerned with phenomena of a most heterogeneous kind, with world famous theatre practitioners, as much as with companies hardly known beyond a small circle. Every reader will discover a more or less long list of names familiar to them. Not all of them are extensively discussed in this book. Paradigm is an auxiliary term used here to indicate the shared negative boundary demarcating the internally highly diverse variants of the postdramatic theatre from the dramatic.
These works of theatre also become paradigmatic because they are widely recognized — albeit not always welcomed — as an authentic testimony of the times, and as such develop their own yardstick. The term paradigm is not intended to promote the illusion that art, like science, could conform to the developmental logic of paradigms and paradigm shifts.
When discussing postdramatic stylistic moments one could easily point out those that the new theatre shares with the traditional dramatic theatre.
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An analysis that resigned itself to a mere inventory of the motley costumed styles and varieties would miss the actual underlying productive processes. Without the development of categories for stylistic traits, which in each case are only impurely realized, these traits would not even stand out. For instance, narrative fragmentation, heterogeneity of style, hypernaturalist, grotesque and neo-expressionist elements, which are all typical of postdramatic theatre, can also be found in productions which nevertheless. In the end, it is only the constellation of elements that decides whether a stylistic moment is to be read in the context of a dramatic or a postdramatic aesthetics.
The theatre of sense and synthesis has largely disappeared — and with it the possibility of synthesizing interpretation. The task of theory is to articulate, conceptualize and find terms for that which has come into being, not to postulate it as the norm. Postmodern and postdramatic For the theatre of the time span we are concerned with here — roughly the s to the s — the term postmodern theatre has become established.
This can be sorted in many ways: the theatre of deconstruction, multimedia theatre, restoratively traditionalist theatre, theatre of gestures and movement. Some of the key words that have come up in the international postmodernism discussion are: ambiguity; celebrating art as fiction; celebrating theatre as process; discontinuity; heterogeneity; non-textuality; pluralism; multiple codes; subversion; all sites; perversion; performer as theme and protagonist; deformation; text as basic material only; deconstruction; considering text to be authoritarian and archaic; performance as a third term between drama and theatre; anti-mimetic; resisting interpretation.
Postmodern theatre, we hear, is without discourse but instead dominated by mediation, gestuality, rhythm, tone. Moreover: nihilistic and grotesque forms, empty space, silence. Such keywords, as much as they often hit upon something real about the new theatre, can neither be cogent individually much of it — ambiguity, resisting interpretation, multiple codes — is obviously also true for previous forms of theatre , nor can they collectively offer more than catchphrases which necessarily have to remain very general deformation or name very heterogeneous traits perversion, subversion.
This scepticism, however, seems to be more justified towards the concept of postmodernism, which claims to achieve the definition of a whole epoch. Yet they do show a renunciation of the traditions of dramatic form. Only if this is abolished, at least in tendency, does it become possible to make theatre with a minimum of dramaturgy, almost without dramaturgy. I realize. That is actually no longer interesting to me.
While the large theatres, under the pressures of conventional norms of the entertainment industry, tend not to dare to deviate from the unproblematic consumption of fables, the newer theatre aesthetics practise a consistent renunciation of the one plot and the perfection of drama — without this implying a renunciation of modernity per se.
What it does not mean is an abstract negation and mere looking away from the tradition of drama. This may be a relation of negation, declaration of war, liberation, or perhaps only a deviation and playful exploration of what is possible beyond this horizon. Postdramatic theatre thus includes the presence or resumption or continued working of older aesthetics, including those that took leave of the dramatic idea in earlier times, be it on the level of text or theatre.
Art in general cannot develop without reference to earlier forms. It is only a question of the level, consciousness, explicitness and special manner of reference. The claim that postmodern theatre needed classical norms in order to establish its own identity by way of a polemical distancing from it12 could be. For, it is often rather the critical talk about the new theatre that seeks such recourse. What is actually hard to shake off is the classical terminology that turns the power of tradition into aesthetic norms.
It is true that new theatre practice often establishes itself in the public consciousness through polemical differentiation from customary practice and thus creates the appearance that it owes its identity to the classical norms. Provocation alone, however, does not make a form; even provocative, negating art has to create something new under its own steam. Through this alone, and not through the negation of classical norms, can it obtain its own identity.
This then posed the question: And what is taking its place? This answer can no longer suffice. One exacerbating factor for the nearly uncontested acceptance of this conception of the epic as the successor to the dramatic has been the overpowering authority of Brecht. The case of Roland Barthes is a revealing one. He concerned himself intensely with the theatre between and , acting in a student company. Barthes was so shaken by this experience that he subsequently declared his reluctance to write about any other kind of theatre from then on.
Even then, this seemed more important to him than the emotionality of theatre. Brecht became a perceptual block for Barthes. One could say, Brechtian aesthetics represented for him — all too comprehensively and all too absolutely — the one and only model of a theatre of inner distance. The estrangement of theatre and drama Starting in the Theory of the Modern Drama itself and more so in his subsequent studies on lyrical drama, Szondi himself expanded his diagnosis and amended his one-sided interpretation of the metamorphosis of drama as epicization.
Yet a whole host of prejudices still block comprehension of the very transformation process of which phenomena like the epicizing tendency and the lyrical theatre are themselves only moments: namely the transformation that has mutually estranged theatre and drama and has distanced them ever further from each other. Theatre without drama does exist. What is at stake in the new theatre development are the questions in which way and with what consequences the. Certainly, even throughout the modern era, the modern theatre for its devotees was an event in which the dramatic text played only one part — and often not the most important — of the experiences sought.
Yet despite all the individual entertaining effects of the staging, the textual elements of plot, character or at least dramatis personae and a moving story predominantly told in dialogue remained the structuring components. This explains why many spectators among the traditional theatre audience experience difficulties with postdramatic theatre, which presents itself as a meeting point of the arts and thus develops — and demands — an ability to perceive which breaks away from the dramatic paradigm and from literature as such.
It is not surprising that fans of other arts visual arts, dance, music are often more at home with this kind of theatre than theatregoers who subscribe to literary narrative. This indeed captures a crucial change and a structure concerning, for example, the theatre of Robert Wilson, Richard Foreman and other exponents of American avant-garde theatre.
And in this theatre without dialogue the figures only seem to be speaking. It would be more accurate to say that they are being spoken by the author of the script or that the audience lends them its inner voice. These were important impulses avant la lettre for an understanding of the theatre of the s and s, and they have maintained much of their pertinence. At the same time, one cannot stop here, especially since Wirth outlined his ideas only briefly and in the form of theses. To begin with, the discourse model, with its duality of point of view and vanishing point, omnipotent director here and solipsistic viewer there, preserves the classical ordering model of perspective that was characteristic of drama.
A disposition of spaces of meaning and sound-spaces develops which is open to multiple uses and which can no longer simply be ascribed to a single organizer or organon — be it an individual or a collective. Rather, it is often a matter of the authentic presence of individual performers, who appear not as mere carriers of an intention external to them — whether this derives from the text or the director.
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They act out their own corporeal logic within a given framework: hidden impulses, energy dynamics and mechanics of body and motorics. Thus, it is problematic to see them as agents of a discourse of a director who remains external to them. This theatre of a logic of the double is precisely what Artaud wanted to exclude. Instead, we have to comprehend a much more radical distancing of theatre from the dramatic-dialogic conception as such.
Theatre after Brecht Andrzej Wirth writes: Brecht called himself the Einstein of the new dramatic form. This selfassessment is no exaggeration if one understands the epoch-making theory. This theory has given an impulse for the dissolution of the traditional stage dialogue into the form of the discourse or solilogue.
Is Gestus, understood so generally, not at the heart of playing in all theatre? What Brecht achieved can no longer be understood one-sidedly as a revolutionary counter-design to tradition. In the light of the newest developments, it becomes increasingly apparent that, in a sense, the theory of epic theatre constituted a renewal and completion of classical dramaturgy.
Postdramatic theatre is a post-Brechtian theatre. For here, too, the choice of words and an implicit or even explicit equation of theatre with staged drama perpetuate the no longer accurate. To take this stance, however, marginalizes crucial realities of theatre — and not just of contemporary theatre. It no longer serves the purpose of theoretical concepts to sharpen perception but instead obstructs the cognition of theatre, as well as the theatre text.
The need for action, entertainment, diversion and suspense employs the aesthetic rules of the traditional concept of drama, though mostly unconsciously so, in order to measure theatre that quite obviously refuses such demands according to these standards. The quality of the Hamburg production — the only one I know — consisted, however, in its differentiated rhythm designed to carry the grand form intended by Handke.
It is telling that even in an academic analysis of this case, the criterion itself remains unchallenged and valid as a matter of course. Exposition, ascending action, peripeteia and catastrophe: as old-fashioned as it may sound, these are what people expect of an entertaining story in film and theatre. If texts and staged processes are perceived according to the model of suspenseful dramatic action, the theatrical.
These elements the form , however, are precisely the point in many contemporary theatre works — by no means just the extreme ones — and are not employed as merely subservient means for the illustration of an action laden with suspense. Excitation and event are two connotations of this word. Yet we still find an actual similarity to drama here: suffering, at least disappointment, as much as the — presumably quite expressive — manifestation of feelings as a reaction to the refusal.
Two points are remarkable about this everyday usage. On the one hand, it concentrates on the serious side of the dramatic play whose model forms the background. This model of dramatic antagonism hardly makes itself felt in everyday language use. People also call a long search for a lost pet, in which no oppositions, enemy positions, etc. Certainly, there have been adventurous theoretical attempts — for example in the eighteenth century — to salvage the principle of imitation even for music, for example by understanding it as the mimesis of affects.
Since the beginning of modernism, the painted work has often rejected representation and obviously has to be comprehended as positing a new reality in its own right: as a gesture and innervation made manifest; as a statement affirming its own reality; as a trace no less concrete and real than a bloodstain or a freshly painted wall. In these cases, aesthetic experience demands — and makes possible — reflected visual pleasure, conscious experiencing of purely or predominantly visual perception as such, independent of any recognition of represented realities.
In the domain of visual arts, this shift in attitude has long been considered a foregone conclusion. This shifting of media boundaries displaces plot-oriented drama from the aesthetic centre of theatre — though of course by no means from its institutional centre where the traditional drama is still firmly rooted. If one thinks of theatre as drama and as imitation, then action presents itself automatically as the actual object and kernel of this imitation. And before the emergence of film indeed no artistic practice other than theatre could so plausibly monopolize this dimension: the mimetic imitation of human action represented by real actors.
With a certain necessity the fixation on action seems to entail thinking the aesthetic form of. This reality always precedes the double of theatre as the original. While for good reason no poetics of drama has ever abandoned the concept of action as the object of mimesis, the reality of the new theatre begins precisely with the fading away of this trinity of drama, imitation and action. It is a trinity in which theatre is regularly sacrificed to drama, drama to the dramatized, and finally the dramatized — the real in its continual withdrawal — to its concept.
One only has to remember that aesthetic articulations in general transversely to the conceptual grids invent perceptive images and differentiated worlds of affects or feelings that did not exist in this way before or outside of their artistic representation in text, sound, image or scene. Human sentiment imitates art, as much as, the other way round, art imitates life. He emphasized, however, that conversely the aesthetic articulations of social conflicts in turn offer models for their perception and are partially responsible for the modes of ritualization in real social life.
He argued that aesthetically formed drama produces images, structured forms of development and ideological patterns that give order to the social, its organization and perception. Two investments of the libido. Shall we say that the action of the palm represents the passion of the tooth? Is there no possibility to reverse one and the other, a hierarchy of one position over the other, power of one over the other? These choruses relate to that reality not as representation, however, but rather like the clenching of the fist to the toothache in Bellmer.
They allude or point towards it and at the same time offer themselves as an effect of a flux, an innervation or a rage. Energetic theatre would be theatre beyond representation — meaning, of course, not simply without representation, but not governed by its logic. It gains its logic, as much as its sound material, through a musical organization. It would not represent a logic for example of a plot given prior to the theatrical signs. Otherwise it would debase itself by becoming a mere duplicate of something. Husserl, incidentally, leveled a cogent critique against duplication in the area of discursive knowledge.
Drama and dialectic Drama, history, meaning In classical aesthetics, the dialectic of the form of drama and its philosophical implications were of central concern. Therefore, a consideration of what is being left behind when drama is being left behind is best started here. Drama and tragedy were considered the highest form or one of the highest forms of the appearance of Spirit. Drama took on a distinguished role in the canon of the arts because of the dialectical essence of the genre dialogue, conflict, solution; a high degree of abstraction essential for the dramatic form; exposition of the subject in its state of conflict.
As the art form of process, it is, even to date, identified with the dialectical movement of alienation and sublation. Thus, Szondi attributes dialectic to the genre of drama and to tragedy. Historians have time and again taken recourse to the metaphors of drama, tragedy and comedy to describe the sense and inner unity of historical processes. This tendency has been furthered by the objective element of theatricality in history itself. Thus, above all the French Revolution with its grand entrances, speeches, gestures and exits has time and again been conceived of as a drama with conflict, solution, heroic roles and spectators.
To view history as drama, however, almost inevitably introduces teleology, pointing towards a finally meaningful perspective — reconciliation in idealist aesthetics, historical progress in Marxist historiography. Drama promises dialectic. The tight entanglement of drama and dialectic and, more generally, of drama and abstraction has often been noted. Abstraction is inherent to drama. Conscious of this, Goethe and Schiller consequently put at the forefront of their contemplations about the difference between drama and epic the question of the right choice of subject appropriate to the form of drama.
The gesture of the epic writer precisely emphasizes the accessory detail which in drama appears as a laborious waste of time in order to evoke a sense of plenitude and credibility. By contrast, drama is based on a feat of abstraction that sketches a model world in which the plenitude not of reality in general but of human behaviour in the state of an experiment becomes evident.
This is also the basis for the often-observed similarity of novella and drama. For the Poetics drama is a structure that gives a logical namely dramatic order to the confusing chaos and plenitude of Being. This inner order, supported by the famous unities, hermetically seals off the meaningful form, which the artefact tragedy represents, from outside reality and, at the same time, constitutes it internally as an unbroken, complete unity and wholeness. Drama means a flow of time, controlled and surveyable.
Just as peripeteia can be shown to be actually a logical category, anagnorisis, another profound idea of the Poetics, namely the extraordinary emotional effect of recognition, is a motif related to cognition. The painful light of recognition casts light on the whole and, at the same time, poses it as an unsolvable riddle: according to which rules has the now brightly lit constellation come about?
Thus, the moment of recognition is ironically the caesura, the interruption of recognition. This remains implicit in the Poetics, for Aristotle is concerned with the philosophical in tragedy. This is the reason why people take delight in seeing images; what happens is that as they view them they come to understand and work out what each thing is e. Beauty, the Poetics argues, cannot be thought without a certain magnitude expansion : For this reason no organism could be beautiful if it is excessively small since observation becomes confused as it comes close to having no perceptible duration in time or excessively large since the observation is then not simultaneous, and the observers find that the sense of unity and wholeness is lost from their observation, e.
So just as in the case of physical objects and living organisms, they should possess a certain magnitude, and this should be such that it can readily be taken in at one view [eusynopton], so in the case of plots: they should have a certain length, and this should be such that it can readily be held in memory. The perceptible has to yield to the laws of comprehension and memory retention. By contrast, dramatic logos since Aristotle has been attributed with the advance of logic behind deceptive illusion.
The border between world and model that had promoted a sense of security dissolved.
With that, an essential basis of dramatic theatre broke down that was axiomatic for occidental aesthetics, namely the totality of the logos. The beautiful is conceptualized according to the model of the logical, as its variant. Hegel 1: the exclusion of the real Drama as an essentially dialectical genre is at the same time the exquisite place of the tragic.
Theatre after drama, we might thus suspect, would be a theatre without the tragic. In art, the highest form and the most beautiful form are not the same. Hence the well-known remark about ancient sculptures that they were tinged with an air of mourning. For in post-antiquity, the height of beauty, the perfect merger of the sensuous and the spiritual, has to be overcome through the progress of Spirit in favour of a progressive intellectual abstraction. While in classical sculpture, i. It is more than beautiful, already on the way to pure concept and subjectivity.
Drama is not simply the unproblematic appearance but, at the same time, the manifest crisis of beautiful ethicity Sittlichkeit. In the philosophy of drama we find, at the height of its classical formulation,. Let us take a closer look at this rupture within tragedy. Hence, the voice of the epic narrator, which remains external to the hero, has to be replaced with the actual dramatic structure of fate and — in the same move — with the self-articulation of the human being through the scenic embodiment.
This is fatal for the ethical concept. For what motivates the internally necessary exclusion of the real, which at the same time endangers the claim to comprehensive mediation, is nothing less than the principle of drama itself. It is that dialectical abstraction that makes drama possible as a form in the first place, yet, in the same move, removes it from the realm of aesthetic reconciliation, a reconciliation that occurs by means of the permeation of sensuous subject-matter.
In the shape of an insolubly contradictory experience of the ethical problem and abjected materiality, there already slumber in the depths of dramatic theatre those tensions that open up its crisis, dissolution and finally the possibility of a non-dramatic paradigm. From postclassical times to the present, theatre has gone through a series of transformations that assert the right of the disparate, partial, absurd and ugly against the postulates of unity, wholeness, reconciliation and sense. It should rather be understood as the unfolding and blossoming of a potential of disintegration, dismantling and deconstruction within drama itself.
What results is, in other words, the for Hegel unthinkable phenomenon that the particular and preconceptual — the mere individual real player — stand above the moral content. The latter, the Spirit, here depends on the mere particular representational achievement of the player instead of imposing its law on the particular. The basic experience of the actor is the production of the ethically valid through individuals. The self, appearing here in its significance as something actual, plays with the mask it once put on in order to act its part. It makes sense that Menke connects this inner tension, the incompleteness of drama, with the Romantic transcendentalization of poetry.
Towards a prehistory of postdramatic theatre Theatre and text Theatre and drama have existed, and still exist, in a relationship of tensionridden contradictions. To emphasize this state of affairs and consider the whole extent of its implications are the first prerequisite for an adequate understanding of the new and newest theatre. The cognition of postdramatic theatre starts with ascertaining to what extent its existence depends on the mutual emancipation and division between drama and theatre.
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A genre history of drama in and of itself is therefore only of limited interest to theatre studies. In postdramatic forms of theatre, staged text if text is staged is merely a component with equal rights in a gestic, musical, visual, etc. The rift between the discourse of the text and that of the theatre can open up all the way to an openly exhibited discrepancy or even unrelatedness. The historical drifting apart of text and theatre demands an unprejudiced redefinition of their relationship. It proceeds from the reflection that theatre existed first: arising from ritual, taking up the form of mimesis through dance, and developing into a full-fledged behaviour and practice before the advent of writing.
The written text, literature, took on the rarely contested leading role of the cultural hierarchy. However, such a terminological identification of drama with all levels of theatricality cancels out the productive historical and typological differentiations between the different ways in which theatre and dramatic literature have met and separated from each other in modernity. And the fear of this last transformation is general, one can rely on it, one can depend on it. Rather, what is at issue here is the reality albeit one always remaining in the twilight of an overcoming of death through its staging.
Within this frame, the internally highly divergent types and individual appearances, too, presented themselves as variations of a discursive formation, for which the amalgamation of drama and theatre is essential. The development of that discursive formation towards the postdramatic will now be briefly traced.
The path leads from the grand theatre at the end of the nineteenth century, via a multitude of modern theatre forms during the historical avant-garde and then the neo-avant-garde of the s and s, to the postdramatic theatre forms at the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries. Second stage: crisis of drama, theatre goes its own way s Under the premise of a theatre that is not yet changed in revolutionary ways, the crisis of drama occurs from about onwards. What is being shaken during this crisis and subsequently declines is a series of previously unquestioned constituents of drama: the textual form of a dialogue charged with suspense and pregnant with decisions; the subject whose reality can essentially be expressed in interpersonal speech; the action that unfolds primarily in an absolute present.
Thus, Pirandello was convinced of the incompatibility of theatre and drama. This would even be dangerous because the acted Hamlet would kill some of the infinite wealth of the imaginary Hamlet. Later Craig actually undertook a production of the play and declared the attempt had proved his thesis that the play was unstageable. Theatre is here recognized as something that has its own different roots, preconditions and premises, which are even hostile to dramatic literature.
The text should recede from the theatre, Craig concludes, precisely because of its poetic dimensions and qualities. Yet in the forms of her texts, too, a. The autonomization of theatre is not the result of the self-importance of post modern directors craving recognition, as which it is often dismissed. The challenge to discover new potencies of the art of theatre has become an essential dimension of writing for the theatre.
Autonomization, retheatricalization In parallel to the crisis of drama and in the course of the general art revolution around , a crisis of the discourse form of theatre itself occurs. Out of the rejection of traditional forms of theatre develops a new autonomy of theatre as an independent artistic practice. Only since this caesura has theatre abandoned orienting the choice of its means securely around the requirements of the drama to be staged.
This orientation had meant not just a certain limitation but at the same time a certain security for the criteria of theatre crafts, a logic and system of rules for the use of theatrical means that serve the drama. Hence, a loss occurred along with the newly acquired freedom, which, from a productive point of view, has to be described as the entry of theatre into the age of experimentation.
Since it became conscious of the artistic expressive potential slumbering within it, independent of the text to be realized, theatre, like other art forms, has been hurled into the difficult and risky freedom of perpetual experimentation. What until then had been the inherent domain of theatre, the representation of acting people in motion, is taken over by motion pictures which in this respect soon surpass theatre. This rediscovery of the presentational potential peculiar to theatre, and only to theatre, raises the question: what is unmistakable and irreplaceable about it compared to other media?
Indeed this question has since accompanied theatre, and not just because of the rivalry with other art forms. Rather, it. Under the impression of new media, the old ones become self-reflexive. It happened thus with painting when photography emerged, with theatre when film emerged and with the latter when television and video emerged. Even if this change outshines everything else only in a first phase of reaction, from then on self-reflexivity remains a permanent potential and necessity, forced by the coexistence and competition paragon of the arts.
The other regularity within the development of the arts seems to be that dynamism grows from decomposition. When in visual arts the dimension of representation separated from the experience of colour and form photography here and abstraction there the individual elements, thus thrown back upon themselves, could gain acceleration and new forms could come about.
From the decomposition of the whole of a genre into its individual elements develop new languages of form. The aim was not only the remembering of the purely aesthetic means of theatricality. It was not just a matter of a retheatricalization immanent to theatre but at the same time of an opening of the theatrical sphere to others: to cultural, political, magical, philosophical, etc. The desire of the avant-gardes to overcome the boundaries between life and art the failure of which does not condemn them, of course was just as much a motif of retheatricalization.
The autonomization of theatre and with it the increased importance of directing are arguably irrevocable. With the new insistence on the intrinsic value of theatre around the turn of the century there is another context to be kept in mind: the entertainment and spectacle theatre of the late nineteenth century in particular had strengthened the more ambitious directors in their conviction that there was a conflict between the text and routinized theatre.
For Craig, as much as for Chekhov and Stanislavski, Claudel and Copeau, the reclamation of complexity and truth for the theatre was a central motif of their endeavours. The tradition of the written text is under more threat from museumlike conventions than from radical forms of dealing with it. During the late s, the international departure begins. It marks the start not only of the avant-garde but also of pop culture which transforms all areas of private and public life. Rock music Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley for the first time in history produces music deliberately and exclusively targeted at young people.
The triumphal procession of youth culture starts. The reception of Kafka starts and serial music and Art Informel are making themselves felt. Culminating in the revolution of , the s see the development of a new spirit of experimentation in all arts. With happenings, and all the more so with the Vienna actionists, the action takes on the traits of a ritual.