Dramatic Turns: 18th-Century German Theatre
The Enlightenment in Germany demonstratively kicked the Hanswurst (a raunchy, impromptu clown who actively engaged with the audience) off the stage, and ushered in an attempt to mold a ‘cultured’ nation by means of the theatre. Despite many extreme differences, one thing all the successive 18th-century German literary movements—from sentimentalism and Sturm und Drang to Weimar Classicism and the early romantics—have in common is a desire to wrest control from the actor and put it in the hands of the playwright. In this course, we will explore the resounding successes (and instructive failures) of this dramatic turn in theatrical practice. We will conduct close readings (and imaginative stagings) of plays by Lessing, Goethe, Lenz, Schiller, and Kleist. We will also consider the plays in their historical and cultural contexts, and study contemporary theoretical essays on the function of drama.