Modern German World Theater: Playing and Reality
German playwrights between 1770 and 1830 created some of the most memorable characters on the modern stage such as Lessing’s Minna or Goethe’s Faust. They adapted classical myths and dramatized history in radically new ways. Their plays are still performed as part of a German and international stage repertoire. Working with English and French models, the representatives of this new literary theater in 18th century Germany sought to create innovative forms of aesthetic community by shaping their audience’s affective response to the plays. In the process, they distanced themselves both from the lavish court spectacles of the time and the popular marketplace shows of the itinerant actors’ troupes. The Viennese theatrical tradition is more strongly indebted to Spanish Baroque theatre and the Italian Commedia dell’ arte.
In this course, we will examine some of the larger issues pertaining to the new German theater in the long 18th century while focusing our attention on several interesting playwrights and plays (Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Faust I; Friedrich Schiller’s Maria Stuart; Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s Minna von Barnhelm; Friederike Helene Unger’s Der Mondkaiser; Franz Grillparzer’s Medea). 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 most 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. Course work includes journals, midterm, final essay and some team work.
Required: German 203. Recommended level of preparation: German 301, 302, or 303.