Germanic Languages | German Culture Studies II
G564 | 16608 | Claudia Breger

TR 2:30-3:45
T 7:00-9:00

Topic: Staging Culture: 20th-century German Theater Histories
The idea of “staging culture” points to a by now well-established
paradigm of culture studies. With multi-disciplinary origins in
linguistics, sociology and anthropology, concepts of cultural
performance and performativity have become a major vehicle of
contemporary scholarly investigations into all things culture. We
easily talk about cultural identities being displayed, created, or
critiqued through theatrical performances both on stage and in our
daily lives. The omnipresent vocabulary, however, covers widely
divergent theoretical assumptions and open questions: How do body,
language and existing norms interact in any given performance? Is
performance a radical force of cultural critique, or does it tend to
reproduce cultural values and meanings? Respectively: When, and how,
does cultural performance become a critical force? Is it, for example,
a matter of media?
	Questions like these provide a theoretical focus for our study of
20th-century German culture. Thematically, we will concentrate on the
theater as a space of institutionalized cultural performance, but also
occasionally venture out into larger terrains of cultural performance.
Theater provides a “material anchor” for our investigations: We will
look at the history of the institution, the profession of acting, and
the theory of performance as developed by theater directors and
scholars of German Theaterwissenschaften. At the same time, the course
analyzes theater as a player in the larger field of culture. Both
shaped by and actively participating in political, social and
discursive histories from the German Kaiserreich to the “Berlin
Republic,” theater introduces us to changing concepts of art and
activism, norms and collective identities.
	Furthermore, we will study theater at the crossroads of different
media, from the notorious literary text (the favorite enemy of much
20th-century theater theory) to film and video, competitors which have
become integral components of theater culture at the turn of the 21st
century. Featured names include (tentatively): Frank Wedekind, Max
Reinhardt, Else Lasker-Schüler, Gustaf Gründgens, Betrolt Brecht,
Peter Weiss, Heiner Müller, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Elfriede Jelinek,
Frank Castorf, Christoph Schlingensief, René Pollesch. During our
(more or less regular) film showing, we will watch the theater
productions under discussion (as far as they are available), or,
alternatively, related film materials. German reading and listening
competence is essential for this course.

Most readings will be available on e-reserve. However, please order
the following German books directly from IBIS (;

Fiebach, Joachim. Manifeste europäischen Theaters. Theater der Zeit
2002. ISBN: 3934344178.
Fischer-Lichte, Erika. Ästhetik des Performativen. Suhrkamp 2004
ISBN: 3518123734.
Özdamar, Emine Sevgi. Seltsame Sterne starren zur Erde. Kiepenheuer &
Witsch 2004. ISBN: 3462034286 (should be paperback edition!).