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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Heiner Müller :bmotif:mask/metamorphosis, metaphor:theatricality/metatheatricality Quint, Cordula


The late postmodern texts by East-German playwright Heiner Muller are intricately structured historical-mythological montages characterized by an insurgent fragmentation of 'dramatic action' and a cryptic density of verbal and visual metaphorization. Indeed, Muller's radical dramaturgical approach has been described as the 'poetics of destruction’, a term which pertains to the dramatist's own theories about the contemporary exigencies of maintaining the vital social and political function of the theater. Texts such as Die Hamletmaschine are frequently evaluated as incoherent and abstruse disfigurements of the original from which they are derived. It is the purpose of this study to examine two closely related plays of Muller's late canon -- Die Hamletmaschine (1977) and Der Auftrag (1979) -- and to reveal the striking consistency and coherence of the postmodern dramatist's transposition of a fourfold motif-cluster from Shakespeare's Hamlet. However, the author's exegetical analyses aim not only at an investigation of Muller's postmodern aesthetical aberrations. They reveal, moreover, how the Shakespearean motif-cluster becomes the marxist's tool to assimilate the historical and political context of the late 1970's from a marxist perspective. The two texts selected from Muller's canon investigate the possibility and the reasons for the failure of the socialist-marxist and the French revolutions. Concurrently, the two dramas focus on the 'authentic' role and function of the intellectual revolutionary in the historical process . The transposition of the "Shakespearean" theatrum-mundi metaphor, furthermore, allows Muller to integrate a coherent metatheatrical dimension into his plays. In Die Hamletmaschine, the dramatist contemplates the social and political function of the theater and of the 'intellectual' theater-maker within the contemporary historical context of 1977. In Der Auftrag, the metatheatrical dimension of the motif-cluster implicitly criticizes the political structure of the theater as an institution as well as the hierarchical mechanisms of conventional theater-making.

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