german conference - heiner mueller

german conference - heiner mueller - "Turns of the Century:...

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“Turns of the Century: Remapping the Turning Points of Germany’s Twentieth Century” German Studies Graduate Student Conference, Cornell University March 28-29, 2007 Heiner Müller’s Open Dialectic and the Anti-Lesson of the Lehrstück Bertolt Brecht’s play, Die Maßnahme ( The Measures Taken ), is dramatic work that shows all of its cards from the beginning. It does not hide behind theater trickery or melodrama in an effort to provoke; instead, its seemingly modest subtitle – Lehrstück – tells us precisely how read it, or, better yet, how to perform it. It is a play with a pedagogical purpose; literally, a teaching play. Yet Brecht’s own theories of the Lehrstück form – which must be culled together from fragments he wrote over the course of two decades – suggest that a more fitting name for his invention might be Lern-stück , or learning play. I make this claim because even though Brecht does intend for the Lehrstück to serve as a guide toward a certain kind of thinking and a certain kind of consciousness, his lasting emphasis in these descriptions is less on that which provides the occasion for learning a specific lesson, and more on the education undertaken by the actors as they engage with dramatic work. Die Maßnahme strives to be precisely this kind of Lern-stück , one that is concerned with a particular form of learning and understanding; but it falls short. What starts as an effort to inspire dialectical thinking through performance and defamiliarization, culminates – intentionally or not – as a Lehrstück true to its name; no longer concerned with the process of understanding and learning ( lernen ), it becomes a play that teaches ( das lehrt ) and provides the actors with a lesson. Heiner Müller’s Mauser , however – a play that we can justifiably call a rewriting of Die Maßnahme – is an improvement on Brecht’s own failed Lehrstück ; it is a correction of Die
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Pickle 2 Maßnahme to the extent that the play is no longer a Lehrstück true to its name, but a learning play invested not in delivering a specific message, but in provoking a form of dialectical thought. Brecht’s theory of the Lehrstück is scattered throughout various short essays and fragments that he wrote in the 1920s and ‘30s. 1 Accordingly, an attempt to pull together a coherent definition of this form requires considerable time and labor, both of which scholar Reiner Steinweg has invested for his own research. In his latest book on the subject, Lehrstück und episches Theater , Steinweg outlines several points he believes are at the heart of this form, which I will simplify here for the sake of time. His principle tenet is that “The Lehrstück contains no ‘message’ , it doesn’t teach ‘Marxism’ or another philosophy/social theory; rather, it teaches [how to] more precisely see reality.” 2 It is a pedagogical tool principally intended to instruct those performing the play in a particular way of seeing, thinking and, consequently, acting, not to
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This note was uploaded on 04/03/2008 for the course ANTHR 1300 taught by Professor Arcadi, a during the Spring '08 term at Cornell.

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german conference - heiner mueller - "Turns of the Century:...

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