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Theater im Medienzeitalter: Das postdramatische Theater von Elfriede Jelinek und Heiner Muller.

Theater im Medienzeitalter: Das postdramatische Theater von Elfriede Jelinek und Heiner Muller. By DAGMAR JAEGER. Bielefeld: Aisthesis. 2007. 174 pp. 29.80 [euro]. ISBN 978-3-89528-587-5.

Dagmar Jaeger's study of Elfriede Jelinek and Heiner Muller is focused on the theatre-text's ability to counter the predominant modes of perception in contemporary post-industrial society. Jaeger locates resistance in certain recent trends in textual dramaturgy when she asserts: 'Nur Drama jenseits des Dramatischen, in der Absage an Handlung und der Abkehr von Illusionsbilding, bringt die zur Fiktion und zum Abbild gewordene Wirklichkeit und die damit einhergehenden Veranderungen in der Wahrnehmungsbedingungen zum Ausdruck' (p. 8). This is her point of departure; Jaeger makes a sustained argument for the political value of a theatre beyond representation and prevents it in three chapters.

The first chapter, which takes the lion's share of the book's pages, considers the plays of Muller and Jelinek in turn. While the discussion could have benefited from a more dramaturgical focus, Jaeger none the less examines some central issues, particularly in the area of subjecthood in Muller and issues of a repressed past in Jelinek. A shorter second chapter adopts Benjamin and Baudrillard as theorists of reality in the age of mechanical reproduction. Jaeger argues that the simulated world of Baudrillard is the medium through which essentially Fascist forms of communication, identified and analysed by Benjamin, are perpetuated beyond Riefenstahl's films and the Nazis' newsreels. The final chapter interrogates the post-dramatic theatre as a site of resistance, as an anti-Fascist institution. The post-dramatic places emphasis on a shared experience between the stage and the audience, and because it is working beyond the strictures of Aristotelian representation, it is able to offer theatre jenseits der vorgeformten begrifflichen Formulierungen' (p. 106). Jaeger takes issue with anti-realist attempts at criticizing reality found in the more experimental dramatic theatre of the twentieth century because she considers that reality still remains their reference-point. The chapter continues with a discussion of intertextuality in the two playwrights as a texturally jarring moment in which the resurrection of a historical consciousness becomes possible. The author then pursues a disquisition on the post-dramatic 'ich' whose power is constituted by its twin virtues of being 'ortslos und tiefenlos' (p. 139); that is, the speaker exists only through language, and it is the non-representational configurations of that language that engage the audience and encourage interpretation in the auditorium and not necessarily on the stage. A brief discussion of post-dramatic performance concludes the study.

For the most part, Jaeger takes a focused approach and argues well and solidly. It is slightly surprising to find no reference to Gerda Poschmann's Der nicht mehr dramatische Theatertext (Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1997), as this book offers a wealth of insights into post-dramatic plays, and Philip Auslander's Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (London: Routledge, 1999) is also missing. The latter suggests that theatre, too, is caught up in the mediatized perceptual processes Jaeger is criticizing-Auslander's thesis would have proven an interesting counterargument for Jaeger to have considered. Despite these omissions, however, Jaeger brings an interesting political dimension to the debate on the post-dramatic theatre and illuminates some central tenets of two of the most important and influential playwrights writing in German in recent decades.


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Author:Barnett, David
Publication:The Modern Language Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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