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Modern German Political Drama 1980-2000

Modern German Political Drama 1980-2000

Birgit Haas
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Modern German Political Drama 1980-2000
    Book Description:

    The last two decades of the 20th century gave rise to a renaissance in the genre of the political drama in Germany. Although political drama has always been a mainstay of German literature, it has been of particular significance during the years surrounding the 'Wende', or reunification, of 1989. This book is the first comprehensive study of politically engaged German drama writing in the 1980s and 1990s, covering the works of key playwrights during the period and providing an analysis of oppositional theater before and after reunification. It treats the range of current political topics and their repercussions in drama writing, including reunification, women's issues, the media, politicized environmentalism and the Greens, and right-wing radicalism. In addition to established playwrights such as Heinar Kipphardt, Franz Xaver Kroetz, and Heiner Müller, the book looks at the younger generation of playwrights: writers such as Oliver Bukowski, Dea Loher, Marius von Mayenburg, Albert Ostermaier, and Theresia Walser. It gives an overview of recent German political drama through analysis of more than forty contemporary plays, clearly tracing connections between politics and theater. Each chapter is preceded by a short introduction into the respective political topic, providing the framework for the study of drama as a political tool and making it easy for students to see the multiple ways in which plays respond to political change. This book will be of interest to students and scholars in drama and theater studies and German literature. Birgit Haas teaches in the German Department at the University of Heidelberg.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-634-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
    B. H.
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Since living drama cannot exist without performance, this introduction will outline the trends that shaped the broad canvas of the German stage, and will also explain the repercussions of performance culture on the writers. Following the postmodern wave of the 1970s, stage directors gained importance, and a culture of so-called “Regietheater” developed, a type of drama that gave directors complete freedom in their productions. Many directors shunned “Werktreue,” the rendering of a dramatic text true to the author’s intentions, in favor of experimental performance. They regarded texts largely as reservoirs, sources of material that could be cut, rearranged, and turned...

  7. Part I: The 1980s

    • 1: Outcasts
      (pp. 13-30)

      After the wild protests against the government led by the Greens and the women’s movement in the 1970s, the 1980s were dominated by political inertia. In 1982, the Christian Democrats won the parliamentary election (Bundestagswahl), and Helmut Kohl was to become chancellor for the next sixteen years. This landslide victory revealed a neoconservative current in German society that viewed the future with optimism. (Fortschrittsoptimismus). In contrast to the Greens’ apocalyptic visions of a nuclear desert, the conservatives refused to let their lives be spoiled by sorrow, and were eager to paint a positive picture of the German state.¹ The Christian...

    • 2: Green Issues
      (pp. 31-41)

      In the late 1960s, only local protest groups addressed the issue of water and air pollution. Following the report by the Club of Rome in 1972, however, which pointed out that economic growth had to be limited if the environment was to be saved, people became aware of the global dimension of environmental destruction. The conclusion was shocking and simple: economic growth would eventually destroy the earth. Similarly, workers in the big cities felt increasingly alienated by industrialization, pollution, and the building of motorways and ugly suburbs. The fact that hardly any green areas survived in cities led to a...

    • 3: The Memory of the Holocaust
      (pp. 42-59)

      With the fiftieth anniversary of Hitler’s seizure of power approaching, West Germany faced numerous commemorations in the early 1980s. At memorial sites and former concentration camps, but also on television and radio, people were reminded of the disastrous years of National Socialist terror, its origins and its consequences.¹ Television series, such as Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, sparked off new and old debates about the Holocaust.²

      As the aim of the newly elected Kohl government was to revive the conservative spirit of the 1950s, the so-called Adenauer-Ära, named after the first chancellor of the FRG, it clearly signaled a neoconservative turn in...

    • 4: The Decay of the GDR
      (pp. 60-80)

      In October 1949, one month after the founding of the Federal Republic, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was founded. This move cemented the final division of East and West, which had been presaged by the introduction of two different currencies in 1948.¹ From the very beginning, the GDR, as the Socialist state that was modeled on the Soviet Union, suffered from serious economic problems as a result of the damages and ravages caused by war. While the West soon prospered, thanks to generous financial help from the United States and the other western allies, the GDR had a bad start....

  8. Part II: The 1990s

    • 5: Reflections on German Reunification
      (pp. 82-142)

      From the mid-1980s, Gorbachev’s policies of Glasnost and Perestroika were a clear sign that the GDR was also ripe for a change.¹ However, Erich Honecker, the first secretary of the GDR since 1971, refused to acknowledge the growing discontent of the East German population, and in fear of losing the hegemony of his party, adopted a tough line against all attempts at reform.² On 2 May 1989, Hungary began to tear down the barbed-wire fence on its border with Austria, thus opening a loop-hole for thousands of East Germans to escape. Others took refuge in the West German embassies in...

    • 6: Women in Society Today
      (pp. 143-166)

      In Germany, the women’s movement came to life in the early days of the student movement, when women began to realize that their male colleagues were not interested in female issues.¹ The 1970s saw a vehement struggle to combat discrimination against women at home, at work and in politics, and German feminists began to oppose the existing legal conditions, such as article 218 of the German Criminal Code,² according to which abortion was illegal.³ By the late 1970s, feminists had established a female counter-culture, and were propagating female values and viewpoints in journals such as Courage and Emma. Moreover, a...

    • 7: Terrorism in Germany
      (pp. 167-185)

      Terrorism in the 1970s in Germany looked very different from the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 on the World Trade Center in New York.¹ Whereas the 2001 attacks originated in religious and nationalist beliefs, the German left-wing terrorists acted like Marxist revolutionaries whose “war” aimed to overthrow the German government from within, with little or no support from the people.²

      In 1967, at the same time that the students’ movement was beginning, several small Marxist and extreme-left splinter groups were also being founded. Neo-Marxist groups, such as the Rote Armee Fraktion, the Bewegung 2. Juni, and the Revolutionäre Zellen,...

    • 8: Right-Wing Radicalism in Germany after Reunification
      (pp. 186-206)

      Two years into reunification and its huge economic problems, the Germans, who were already disillusioned and disappointed, were confronted with another issue: the rapidly increasing number of violent attacks on asylum seekers and foreigners.¹ 1992 witnessed right-wing extremists riots on such an unprecedented scale that violence became a real problem, particularly in East Germany.² As analyses have shown, the attacks in East and West rose from roughly 300 per month in 1990 to 961 in October 1991, and in September 1992 more than 1100 were registered. In June 1993 the number peaked at more than 1,400 attacks.³ These crimes included...

    • 9: Media and Politics
      (pp. 207-226)

      Ever since the Third Reich, the Germans’ relationship to the media and any possible manipulation of information has been understandably tense.¹ To this day, the skepticism of the Frankfurt School is still very influential. The criticisms of the “culture industry” that Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horckheimer voiced in Dialektik der Aufklärung (Dialectics of the Enlightenment, 1944), developed into the dominant paradigms of German media theory. Only Hans-Magnus Enzensberger qualified the indictment of the German left in 1970. He pointed out that the resistive autonomous art of the Frankfurt School, which was supposed to penetrate the manipulative smoke screen of...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 227-228)

    The main characteristics of political drama and the developments that have taken place in this field over the last two decades can be summarized as follows:

    As the 1980s in West Germany saw a conservative turn in society and politics, and a feeling of inertia became stronger, playwrights reacted by advocating the cause of the lower classes, mostly through the new Volkstheater and postmodern pastiche. Moreover, the new social movements, such as the fight against the armament race and environmental pollution, debated issues that playwrights adapted for the stage and presented for discussion.

    In the GDR, the increasingly rigid political...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 229-234)

    On 21 June 2001 the run of Botho Strauß’s latest play, Der Narr und seine Frau in Pancomedia (The Fool and his Wife in Pancomedia, 2000) at the Treptower Arena in Berlin, closed early, as it had failed to attract sufficient audiences. As one critic pointed out, Peter Stein’s production flopped despite, or rather because of, the immaculate portrayal of postmodern prattle in the foyer of a hotel symbolic of society.¹ Strauß’s attempt to bring some sense into the world of unimportant know-it-alls and want-to-bes by introducing a mythological aspect has proved to be unsuccessful.² In a similar way, Rolf...

  11. Index
    (pp. 235-239)