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Bertolt Brecht's Dramatic Theory

Bertolt Brecht's Dramatic Theory

John J. White
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 358
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  • Book Info
    Bertolt Brecht's Dramatic Theory
    Book Description:

    As an integral part of his work as a political playwright and dramaturge, Bertolt Brecht concerned himself extensively with the theory of drama. He was convinced that the Aristotelian ideal of audience catharsis through identification with a hero and the

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-635-0
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    J. J. W.
  4. Abbreviations of Works Frequently Cited
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    The present study offers the first detailed commentary in English on Bertolt Brecht’s major theoretical writings on the theater. It is not intended as an introduction to the plays or as a basic guide to his main dramaturgical concepts (fortunately a number of general studies of Brecht’s work already perform that task admirably). Rather, my aim is to provide in-depth critical analysis of Brecht’s thinking on the subject, discussed both with reference to the intellectual context of the time and in the light of subsequent dramatic and aesthetic theory. This will be coupled with an exploration of his methods of...

  6. 1: Epic Opera and Epic Theater: “Anmerkungen zur Oper Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny” (1930)
    (pp. 26-76)

    In July 1939, now in exile on the Swedish island of Lidingö, Brecht drafted a letter concerning the hostile reception of his theoretical writings. Addressed to “Genosse M.,”¹ it proposed to offer, “da Sie gerade meine theoretischen Dinge durcharbeiten, einige Bemerkungen, die Ihnen vielleicht Umwege ersparen können”:

    Die Ausführungen, die gedruckt vorliegen [. . .], sind als Anmerkungen zu Theateraufführungen und daher mehr oder weniger polemisch geschrieben. Sie enthalten nicht komplette Definitionen und rufen deshalb bei dem sie Studierenden oft Mißverständnisse hervor, die ihn hindern, produktiv theoretisch mitzuarbeiten. Besonders der Opernaufsatz zu “Mahagonny” bedarf einiger Zusätze, damit die Diskussion fruchtbar...

  7. 2: Conceptualizing the Exile Work: “Nicht-Aristotelisches Theater,” “Verfremdung,” and “Historisierung”
    (pp. 77-131)

    The Mahagonny notes are characterized by an exuberant sense of living in an age of transition: “dieser (so kostbaren) Übergangszeit” (GBA 21:143). “Nach meiner Ansicht,” Brecht wrote at the time of Mann ist Mann, “ist es sicher, daß der Sozialismus, und zwar der revolutionäre, das Gesicht unseres Landes noch zu unseren Lebzeiten verändern wird” (GBA 21:145). The picture is one of a society on the brink of revolution and, culturally, of a bourgeois institution not yet under the control of the progressive class, but whose appropriation is imminent, hence the thematic concerns of works like Die Maßnahme, Kuhle Wampe, and...

  8. 3: The Dramaturgical Poems and Their Contexts
    (pp. 132-180)

    Wenn ich meine letzten Stücke betrachte und vergleiche,” Brecht wrote in 1941, “so finde ich sie enorm uneinheitlich in jeder Weise. Selbst die Genres wechseln unaufhörlich. Biographie, Gestarium, Parabel, Charakterlustspiel im Volkston, Historienfarce, die Stücke streben auseinander wie die Gestirne im neuen Weltbild der Physik, als sei auch hier irgendein Kern der Dramatik explodiert. Dabei ist die Theorie, die ihnen unterliegt oder abgezogen werden kann, ihrerseits sehr bestimmt gegenüber den anderen Theorien” (GBA, 26:477). There is much truth to this picture, but the theoretical writings are also “enorm uneinheitlich” and, here too, “die Genres wechseln unaufhörlich.” Apart from conventional essay...

  9. 4: Preparations for East Berlin: Kleines Organon für das Theater (1948)
    (pp. 181-237)

    In April 1948, Brecht informed the American Academy of Arts and Letters that he could not come to accept in person an award from it, as he was “at present living in Switzerland” (GBA, 29:447). During November and December 1947 and for most of 1948 he and Helene Weigel were staying at Feldmeilen near Zurich in connection with the staging of his Antigone “Bearbeitung” at the Chur Stadttheater,“eine Art preview für Berlin,” as he explained to his son Stefan (GBA, 29:440). The Antigone production was not the only activity undertaken at the time with East Berlin in mind. In July...

  10. 5: “Viel Theorie in Dialogform”: The Messingkauf Project (1939–1956)
    (pp. 238-312)

    Brecht’s journal for 12 February 1939, recording how productive he had recently been, ends with the words: “Viel Theorie in Dialogform Der Messingkauf” (GBA, 26:327). Weeks, even months earlier, most probably shortly after the completion of Leben des Galilei in November 1938,¹ Brecht had sketched out a series of dialogue fragments. He would continue to return to the Messingkauf project for more than a decade and a half. In the early 1950s, a fresh burst of activity augured well after a series of stops and starts. Among the pre-published results were a number of significant pieces, including the “Übungsstücke für...

  11. Works Consulted
    (pp. 313-332)
  12. Index
    (pp. 333-348)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 349-349)