"Natur – x" auf der Bühne? Zur Mediologie des Theaters des Naturalismus

Translated title of the contribution: "Nature - x" on the theatre stage? On the mediology of naturalistic theatre

Franz-Josef Deiters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Max Reinhardt's multifaceted attempts to overcome the established model of
representational theatre are generally considered to be the beginning of theatre
modernism. They were conceptualised for the first time in the reflections on the
interior design of the Berlin "Little Theatre", which Reinhardt sent in his letter of 1 August 1901 to his friend Berthold Held who was in charge of the building project: "From the stage, in my opinion, there are bound to be steps in the audience, which we can well use and increase the intimacy, perhaps a few steps on each side, which should be taken into account in the sketch." The steps desired by Reinhardt are intended to mark the unity of the space-time continuum, including both stage and auditorium, and thus to symbolize the programmatic revision of the exclusion of the symbolic space of the stage from the worldly space-time continuum that had occured over the course of the eighteenth century. In the same way, this revision of the established theatrical communication situation is also marked in Hugo von Hofmannsthal's early lyric drama The Death of Titian (1892), in which he places the character of the pageboy in the proscenium to directly address the audience, in order to level, in a metaleptic gesture, the stage-separating apron. If the representation paradigm to be overcome by these operations, is defined semi-logically by Jacques Derrida as a sign model determined essentially by the "exteriority of the signifier," then it is appropriate that Reinhardt and Hofmannsthal's attempts to overcome the paradigm of representation (culminating in their collaborative concept of the Salzburg Festival) are defined as a program led by the intention to interiorize of the signifier. This is particularly evident also in Hofmannsthal's practice of conceiving the dramatic characters of his plays with specific actors in mind to embody them, thus undermining the fundamental difference between the dramatic figure (signified) and the stage actor (signifier) that was characteristic for the theater of the age of representation. In contrast to such obvious gestures of breaking away from the established model, the stage naturalism of the 1890s is usually conceded modernity at most in regards to the choice of its themes; in terms of form it is considered as a school that remains within the framework of the "proscenium stage" and thus within the horizon of the paradigm of representation. In the following, I would like to show that naturalism represents the first coherent attempt to overcome the paradigm of representation in the theater by intending to reintegrate the space of the stage into the worldly space-time continuum or, in other words, by pursuing the interiorization of the signifier. Naturalism in theatre thus forms part of the context of those modern artists avant-garde of the twentieth (and early twenty-first) century is to be classified, which find their greatest common denominator in the fact that they seek to escape the representation paradigm by means of an interiorization of the signifier. In this context, I will define the specifically naturalistic strategy for the interiorization of the signifier as an attempt to replace the established representational with a demonstrational paradigm oriented towards the positive sciences. Finally, the question will be discussed, whether the naturalistic strategy for the establishment of a demonstration dramatury that would change the communication situation in theatre dramatically, succeeds.
Translated title of the contribution"Nature - x" on the theatre stage? On the mediology of naturalistic theatre
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)509-522
Number of pages14
JournalWeimarer Beiträge
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Naturalism
  • Theatre
  • Mediology
  • German Literature
  • Gerhart Hauptmann

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