UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Metropolitan theatrics : performing the modern in Weimar Berlin, 1919-1933 Vasudevan, Alexander Patrick


"Metropolitan Theatrics" charts the unsettling and reshaping of everyday life in Weimar Berlin between 1919 and 1933. It does so, by convening a conversation between the multidisciplinary insights of performance studies and recent geographical approaches to the study of the modern city. Berlin's restless relationship with the 'modern' offers, it is argued, an ideal historical milieu in which to test performance theory while at the same time question some of its presentist assumptions. Drawing on a variety of historical sources, the study focuses on the role of performance - not only theatrical representation, but also the popular press, novels, the visual and performing arts, modern dance, scientific experiments, and everyday practices - in order to demonstrate the specific conjunction of visuality and embodiment that allied 'Berlin' with 'modernity.' The thesis is divided into two main parts. Part One is a close reading of texts and images and how they have come to figure Weimar Berlin as an imagined environment. In this respect, recent scholarship in the humanities has been caught on the horns of a theoretical dilemma, namely how to accommodate the seemingly undocumentable event of performance. Different responses to this dilemma are discussed. In particular, it is argued that in seeking to go beyond representation to embodied experience, a sense of the cultural presence of the former in the latter merits greater critical attention. Part Two continues the thesis's discussion of performance's unorthodox archives by drawing attention to a repertoire of aesthetic and scientific practices which were developed to sense and adapt to the traumatic shock of metropolitan modernity. Ultimately, this thesis provides an historically specific account of aspects of Weimar modernity and thus means to contribute not only to an historical geography of Berlin, but also to the forging of methodologies that serve to widen the cross-disciplinary study of modern culture and modernity. Given the importance of the Weimar era to our understanding of the nature of European modernity, the development of a geography of performance makes a strong case for re-examining the ways in which the relationship between 'modernity' and the 'city' is usually formulated

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.