Seminar 1: Writing and Rewriting National Theatre Histories
The seminar „Writing and Rewriting National Theatre Histories“, taught by Prof. Steve Wilmer (Dublin) and Prof. Stefan Hulfeld (Wien), took its point of departure from Hayden White’s notion that history is not written objectively but that historians write stories and find evidence to back up their ideological or theoretical assumptions, amidst changing trends in the practice of historiography. Working on the presupposition that one normally discovers in a national theatre history an implicit attempt to define that nation as distinct from another nation (for example, one which colonized it) or as unique, as Johann von Herder suggested of all nations in the eighteenth century, the seminar investigated how national theatre histories, like any national history, help to reinforce the notion of national identity.
Seminar 2: Defying the Stars: Tragic Love as the Struggle for Freedom in Romeo and Juliet
The seminar, held by Prof. Friedemann Kreuder (Mainz) and Prof. Paul Kottman (New York), worked on the assumption that, like no other work, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1592) heightens our desire for a tragic love story that we still seek in many forms – in novellas, novels, films, musicals and operas. However, instead of following the most common interpretation of the myth - that it exposes a conflict between the lovers’ individual desires and the reigning demands of family, civic and social norms, in relation to which those desires are formed -, the seminar attempted to replace this paradigmatic interpretation of Romeo and Juliet with a different understanding of love as the struggle for freedom – and, in so doing, to present Shakespeare’s drama as a properly modern vision of our ‘tragic’ subjectivity.
Seminar 3: Unknown traditions of comic practice in 19th century Vienna. Nestroy, Kraus and the canon of Austrian Theatre
The seminar, held by Dr. Birgit Peter (Wien) and Dr. Julia Danielczyk (Wien), investigated on unknown traditions of well-known authors and actors of popular comedies like Johann Nestroy and critics like his passionate admirer Karl Kraus. It especially focussed on Nestroy’s plays “Der Affe und der Bräutigam” or “Der konfuse Zauberer” that refer to and satirise international popular practices and artistic genres. As, in the scope of Nestroy studies, these traditions primarily figure as anecdotes, the seminar attempted to re-think the Viennese popular comedy of the 19th century by searching for the “other” of comic practices and thus open up a new perspective on canonised values of Viennese popular theatre.
Seminar 4: "Do you see nothing there?" (Hamlet, III, 4 / 132): Imagining the Past.
Peter W. Marx (Bern)/ Sharon Aronson-Lehavi (Bar-Ilan)
The ghost-scene in Hamlet symbolizes the departing point for our seminar. Taking Hamlet’s ghost as a metaphor of how to imagine the past we explored the various perspectives that a ghost incurs. Firstly, our view on the ghost stands for the present – our subjective – perspective on the past. Secondly, we cannot be aware of how the ghost views us; therefore, we can only ever imagine the ghost’s perspective. So, it is always our subjective position from which we try to make sense of the past, to frame it. With this, there remains a notion of reconciliation, of embracing the past. We imagine the Past, or rather re-present images of the past. In the seminar we combined the reading of theoretical texts and practical examples of theatre productions, films, and examples from our own fields of research.
The aim was to discuss and reflect the ways in which the past can be imagined, negotiated, made visible or encountered in the present. We asked ourselves how simultaneous memories and technologies form layers of memory, how the past can be present at anytime. In doing this, questions of perspective, of temporality and historiography were taken into account. As historiographers, we re-create images of the past, framing it like a photographer (to use Siegfried Kracauer’s metaphor of a historiographic position), freezing a process into moments/pictures like a photographer. Thus, time is less perceived as linear progression, yet more as anachronistic web of memories, according to Aby Warburg.
Seminar 5: "Die Erde bewegt sich!" Media and Representations of History
The seminar, held by Prof. Freddie Rokem (Tel Aviv) and Prof. Michael Bachmann (Mainz), took its starting point from Brecht’s dramaturgical practice to explore the relationship between movement, history and representation: the movements of the planets in Galileo as well as the paradoxically static movement produced by the revolving stage in Mother Courage and Her Children, having Mother Courage’s wagon “move” and “not move” at the same time. It looked at movements across media and art forms, such as the relationship of theatre, photography and film in the case of Mother Courage, or the use of theatre and film in Hans Jürgen Syberberg’s 1997 installation Cave of Memory. The seminar (virtually) travelled the Danube with Philipp Lacoue-Labarthe’s reflections on Heidegger and the “Question Concerning Technology” and reflected upon the indiscernible movements between “fact” and “fiction” in representations of history.
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