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Drama in the Age of Enlightenment

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  1. Drama in the Age of Enlightenment • Definition of periods within the Enlightenment • Life of Lessing (brief summary) • Drama before/since Lessing (referring back to Gottsched’s Sterbenden Cato) • Plot of Miß Sara Sampson • Family structures • Introduction into the 1st act

  2. Recommended Reading • Jochen Schulte-Sasse, ‘Poetik und Ästhetik Lessings und seiner Zeitgenossen’, in: Hansers Sozialgeschichte der deutschen Literatur, Vol. 3 (München / Wien 1980), pp. 304-326. • Jochen Schulte-Sasse, ‘Drama’, in: Hansers Sozialgeschichte der deutschen Literatur, Vol. 3 (München / Wien 1980), pp. 423-499, esp. Lessing pp. 450-452, 456-465. • CD-ROM, see Lessing, Selected Bibliography

  3. The different phases within the Enlightenment • 1720-1755Frühaufklärung: rationalism (Verstandes-aufklärung), Gottsched • 1750-1770empfindsame Hochaufklärung: unity of brain and heart (Vernunftsaufklärung), Bodmer und Breitinger, Klopstock, Lessing • 1770-1790Spätaufklärung

  4. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing • (1729-1781) • born in Saxonia (Kamenz) • 1746-48 studied theology, then medicine at Leipzig • 1748-67 mainly Berlin: F. Nicolai and M. Mendelssohn • 1767-70 dramaturg at Hamburg (Hamburgische Dramaturgie) • 1770-1781 Librarian at Wolfenbüttel

  5. Lessing‘s main works • till 1755: plays in the Classicist French tradition • 1755Miß Sara Sampson - first German ‚bürgerliches Trauerspiel‘ • 1766Laokoon oder Über die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie • 1767Minna von Barnhelm oder Das Soldatenglück • 1767/69Hamburgische Dramaturgie • 1772Emilia Galotti • 1779Nathan der Weise - first German blank verse drama, model for the later German Classicist plays

  6. German Drama before Lessing • tragedy: Haupt- und Staatsaktionen - nobility, Ständeklausel, necessity of a Fallhöhe • comedy: Verlachkomödien - lower classes • alexandrine based • strict keeping to 3 unities: time, place, action/plot (Zeit, Ort und Handlung) • within the Enlightenment: • teaching morals according to Tugend- and Lasterkatalog • the means: elios and phobos (Aristotle) = fear and terror (Angst und Schrecken) in tragedies Gottsched‘s Der sterbende Cato (1732) TEXT

  7. German Drama since Lessing • tragedy: Bürgerliches Trauer-spiel - touching domestic drama, mixed characters, gleiche Ranghöhe mit Publikum • comedy: Ernste Komödie - noble and bourgeois characters • prose play • 3 unities only as a matter of Wirkung: (time, place,) action/plot (Handlung) • ‘Creating Sensibility’ as the purpose of a bourgeois tragedy • the means: the ‘compassion’ a tragic action should produce in an audience - Furcht und Mitleid, Katharsis as Reinigung der Leidenschaften, not von den

  8. Plot of Lessing‘s Miß Sara Sampson and its function(1755) • quite a simple one, small amount of characters • this leaves room for dealing with conversation as a means of solving conflicts • stress on dialogue instead of stress on action • ‚Mitleidsästhetik‘: make the audience becoming affected; not teaching them a morale, but giving them the experience of a social order to be • ‚Moralisierungsprogramm‘: to educate all classes within society according to the compassionate ideal of family life and thus to establish a paradigm for social and political change - belief in humanity: ‚das Allgemeinmenschliche‘

  9. Lessing‘s Miß Sara Sampson is an example for a whole series of plays in the 1750s and 1760s with its basic formula: • ‚Das Trauerspiel erfüllt seine „Bestimmung“, nämlich „unsere Fähigkeit, Mitleid zu fühlen, zu erweitern“, indem es die Vollkommenheit im Unglück, den tugendhaften Menschen im Leiden zeigt (Lessing on Nicolai, 13. Nov. 1756, und an Mendelssohn, 18. Dez. 1756).‘ • Karl S. Guthke,Das deutsche bürgerliche Trauerspiel, 4. Aufl. (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1984), p.52.

  10. ‚Das ganze Haus‘ • all generations, servants under one roof • ‚Allianzehe‘ - a political, economic ratio behind each and every marriage • affection, desire, lust outside the marriage; intrigues • nobility: • children care by nannies • Mätressenwesen • liaisons • ‚Die bürgerliche Kernfamilie‘ • parents and children only under one roof • ‚Liebesehe‘ - love and compassion for a once chosen lifelong partner • idea of ‚Sittlichkeit‘ and ‚Moral‘, strict moral codes • bourgeois family: • father working outside the house; mother house keeping and children feeding • growing importance of children and their attitudes • idea of education • family becomes the raw model for social (and political) life PicPic Pic

  11. Further readings • W.A. Bruford, Germany in the Eighteenth Century: The Social Background of the Literary Revival (Cam-bridge: University Press, 1965) Lib. 943.05 BRU • Victor Lange, The Classical Age of German Literature. 1740-1815 (London: Arnold, 1982) Lib. 830.96 LAN • Homework • Read Lessing’s Miß Sara Sampson, focus on the Erster Aufzug and Scenes Iii and IIii.We will go through the first act in class, scene by scene and will highlight the important topics and positions. To prepare this, for Act I and Scenes IIi and IIii: • Find out about topics and key terms for each scene. How are the topics developed from one scene to the other? • Define the social position the different characters have. Try to find out when characters are not acting according to their social roles.