“The Latent Radicalism of Aristotle and J.M.R. Lenz”

Lenz, Anmerkungen uebers Theater
Ellwood Wiggins, “The Latent Radicalism of Aristotle and J.M.R. Lenz,” German Life and Letters, 76.1 (2023): 150-172.

J. M. R. Lenz’s Anmerkungen übers Theater (Remarks on the Theater, 1774) present the aesthetic manifesto of the Sturm und Drang. In order to express its programmatic agenda for the modern drama, the text repeatedly attacks Aristotle’s Poetics. This article reads Lenz’s treatment of the Poetics not merely as a handy rhetorical foil for showcasing his own innovative dramatic theories, but rather as an integral part of the performance of the text. It turns out that there are similarities in both form and content between the two disparate treatises. By tracing the series of opposing terms that the Anmerkunguen take up in succession (imitation and viewpoint; man and fate; tragedy and comedy), the analysis sets up a final reevaluation of the aesthetics of effect implicit in Lenz’s treatise. Though he never mentions catharsis, this ambiguous Aristotelian terminus technicus can be a key to understanding the paradoxes of Lenz’s text and revealing its potential radicality.

View PDF (188.04 KB)