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German angst & the archetypal antihero

This lecture discusses German theatrical debates from the mid-C18 to the early C19, with a focus on Buchner's Woyzeck.

Marlis Schweitzer

on 24 November 2013

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Transcript of German angst & the archetypal antihero

Last class: sentimental culture, public sphere, David Garrick
Identify themes
Woyzeck as rejection of neoclassicism
Woyzeck as rejection of Romanticism
8b. Looking at Woyzeck
Buchner’s play inspired by real events
Presents numerous challenges for historians
fragments assembled after B's death
1879: published
1909: first production
8a. Woyzeck
Romanticism a pan-European movement
But...1830s revolutions fail to topple governments & Romantic ideals falter
6d. Romanticism spreads
Variety over conformity
Shakespeare as model (scrap unities)
Antihero characters (e.g. Victor Hugo's "Hernani")
6c. Romantic form
Romantics celebrate irrationality, emotion, intuition; belief in higher power (spiritual/ supernatural realm)
Untamed, unspoiled nature is purer than civilized state; interest in "noble savage"
6b. Romantic philosophy
1790s: Romantic movement develops in response to Fr. Rev. (1789) and Napoleon
Romanticism = final rejection of neoclassicism in philosophy and form
6a. Romanticism
1770s: sturm und drang coincides with growing professionalism
1775: first state theatre in Gotha; fully funded
1780s: many state theatres = flourishing companies
5. State & National Theatres
1770s: Sturm und drang (storm & stress) movement
Like Lessing reject neoclassicism; celebrate extreme emotion, rebellion, violence, suicide
Celebrate antiheroes
4. Sturm und drang
3b. Lessing’s Dramaturgy
1750s: Ephraim Lessing emerges as important playwright
Influenced by Diderot; writes plays inspired by English stage (i.e. Shakespeare)
E.g. "Miss Sara Sampson" as bourgeois tragedy

3a. Lessing
Johann Christoph Gottsched & Caroline Neuber lead reform in Leipzig
Translate and imitate Fr. Neoclassical plays; professionalize acting
2. Reform: 1720s
Early 1700s: few pro theatres in Germany
Germany divided into 300 small states
1. C18 German theatre
Thinking about national identity
Role of imagination, emotion
Benedict Anderson’s notion of “imagined community” (1983)
“both inherently limited and sovereign”
"imagined theatre"
Intro (cont)
Neoclassicism & its rejection
Romanticism & its rejection
Intro (cont)
Benedict Anderson
“imagined community”
Johann Christoph Gottsched
Caroline Neuber
Ephraim Lessing
Hamburg Dramaturgy (1776-1779)
Sturm und drang
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“The Sorrows of Young Werther” (1774)
noble savage
Hernani riots (1830)
Young Germany movement
Georg Büchner
Key Words
From neoclassicism to Romanticism and beyond
German angst and the archetypal antihero
1830s: Young Germany movement
Writers reject Romantic ideals; insist that art should focus on contemporary social issues
Buchner not formally a member but shares views
7. Buchner & Young Germany
absolutism & hedonism
sentimentalism, moral sense & civic responsibility
David Garrick as Richard III (1745)
Neoclassicism & Its Rejection
Romanticism & Its Rejection
7a. Woyzeck
Rulers see touring performers; Vienna becomes opera “capital”
G. touring co’s pander to lowbrow tastes
“Enough of the good-hearted idea to create for the Germans a national theatre, since we Germans are not yet a nation! I speak not of political constitution, but solely about moral character. One should almost say that we do not wish to have one of our own. We are still perpetually the sworn imitators of everything foreign; in particular we are still perpetually the subservient admirers of the never-sufficiently-admired French.”

1767-1769: writes over 100 essays while literary manager of Hamburg National Theatre (Hamburg Dramaturgy)
Attacks neoclassicism; praises English drama ("revised classicism")
E.g. Goethe’s novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther" (1774)
“I sometimes cannot understand how she can love another, how she dares love another, when I love nothing in the world so completely, so devotedly, as I love her, when I know only her, and have no other possessions.”
E.g. Friedrich Schiller’s play "The Robbers" (1781)
Ekhof Theater (Gotha)
Art can liberate the soul & reveal truth
Celebration of the individual artist-genius
Freedom from form
Caspar David Friedrich, "Abbey Among Oak Trees" (1808-1810)
Detail from Benjamin West's "The Death of General Wolfe" (1771)
Caspar David Friedrich, "The Wanderer Among the Sea Fog" (1818)
Hernani Riots (1830)
Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables"
Cameri Theatre, Tel Aviv, 2011
Vesturport, Iceland, 2009
Theater Bremen
Next week: Uncle Tom's Cabin
new emotions contained in neoclassical form
Georg Buchner (1813-1837)
Full transcript