Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture
Modern German World Theater: Playing and Reality
Between 1750 and 1830, German playwrights created some of the most memorable characters on the modern theatrical stage, such as Lessing’s Minna or Goethe’s Faust. They experimented with different models, adapted classical myths, and dramatized history in new ways. Their goal was to establish a modern literary (=text-based) theater for educating the audience and creating new forms of aesthetic community. The proponents of this modern Bildungstheater distanced themselves both from the lavish court spectacles of the time as well as the popular marketplace shows of the itinerant actors’ troupes. In this course, we will examine the German and Viennese theater of the long 18th century, the so-called Goethezeit, focusing our attention on five major playwrights and plays: Goethe’s Stella; Schiller’s Maria Stuart; Lessing’s Minna von Barnhelm, Grillparzer’s Medea (from the trilogy Das goldene Vliess) and Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflöte. We will ask how these “very serious jokes” (Goethe) may continue to entertain and engage us today and reflect on recent performances. Annotated versions of some plays are available to help with the readings in German. Class discussion will be in German or English, depending on the language skills of the group. Required preparation: German 203. Recommended course preparation: German 301, 302 or 303. Course grades are based on class participation, team projects, reading journals, midterm, and a final-exam essay.