Modern German World Theater: Playing and Reality
German playwrights between 1770 and 1830 have created some of the most memorable characters on the modern stage such as Goethe’s Faust or Schiller’s Mary Stuart. Boldly experimenting with old and new forms, they have adapted classical myths for articulating contemporary concerns and dramatized history in radically new ways. Hence their plays still matter to us today and they are regularly performed as part of an international stage repertoire. The practitioners of the new 18th century literary theater in Germany distanced themselves both from the lavish court spectacles of the time and the popular marketplace shows of the itinerant actors’ troupes. They sought to establish new modes of spectatorship and to create innovative forms of aesthetic community by shaping their audience’s affective response to the plays. The Viennese theatrical tradition in turn is indebted to the European masters of baroque theater and to playful comedic forms.
In this course we will examine some of the larger issues pertaining to German theater in the long 18th century while focusing our attention on some of the major playwrights and plays (Goethe’s Faust I; Schiller’s Maria Stuart; Lessing’s Nathan der Weise; Grillparzer’s Goldenes Vlieβ). We will ask how these “very serious jokes” (Goethe) continue to entertain and engage us today and how they are performed on the 21st century stage. Annotated versions of the plays are available to help with the readings in German. Class discussion will be conducted in German or English, depending on the linguistic preparation of the group. Overall, this course aims at advancing students‘ critical reading and writing skills while broadening their historical understanding of German literature and culture in the broader European context. Grading: Oral preparation, journals, midterm, some team work and a final exam essay. Required: German 203. Recommended level of preparation: German 301, 302, or 303.