Kostümierung der Geschlechter: Schauspielkunst Als Erfindung der Aufklärung

By Lafountain, Pascale | Goethe Yearbook, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Kostümierung der Geschlechter: Schauspielkunst Als Erfindung der Aufklärung


Lafountain, Pascale, Goethe Yearbook


Beate Hochholdinger-Reiterer, Kostümierung der Geschlechter: Schauspielkunst als Erfindung der Aufklärung. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2014. 471 pp. + 12 illustrations.

Lessing famously lamented in the 101st Stück of his Hamburgische Dramaturgie, "Wir haben Schauspieler, aber keine Schauspielkunst." Hochholdinger-Reiterer's extensive inquiry probes the points of intersection among the discursive invention of acting as art, the "Neuordnung der Geschlechter" (45), and the matrix of social shifts that accompanied these eighteenth-century developments. In conversation with recent works on gender, Anthropologie, and Natürlichkeit by Alexander Kosenina, Erika Fischer-Lichte, and others, the present monograph pursues gender "Codierungen und deren Verkörperungen" (29) not only in the eighteenth century but also well into the twentieth. The methodological choice to analyze gender, metaphorical father figures, and national identity with minimal psychoanalytical, feminist, or poststructuralist jargon makes the work readable for a large audience. The methodological focus is on the foundational role that gender metaphors play in discourses from theater to national identity politics and academe. As a result of this broad discursive interest, the resources examined are remarkably comprehensive, including philosophical treatises, theater periodicals, letters, and theater histories, as well as analytical references to theories by Koselleck, Habermas, Kantorowicz, and others. Bourdieu's concept of "habitus" is also explicitly formative in that it guides the examination of the process by which physical practices, such as theater performance, interact with and affect social norms. Tracing cultural "Kostümierung" and its social implications in the largest sense, the book is a thorough and wellstructured study of "das Oszillierende der Geschlechtercodierungen" (409) in eighteenth-century theater and culture.

Following an establishing theoretical chapter, three chapters address aspects of the gendered history of theater: "Mündlichkeit und Schriftlichkeit," "Vaterfigur en und Störfaktoren," and "Nation und Erbe." At the outset, the author parses the ongoing negotiation between masculine-coded national theater reform efforts and feminine-coded "illiterarische, körperbetonte, ungeregelte und 'unreine'" (275) pre-Enlightenment theater. Hochholdinger-Reiterer demonstrates with extensive examples how the "Erfindung" of written theories, rules, and theater reviews marks the intellectualization and metaphorical masculinization of acting around 1750. The third chapter focuses on Conrad Ekhof (1720-78), the father of German acting, who through historiographical texts becomes the object of over two centuries of "Vater-Kult" (152). Hochholdinger-Reiterer even provocatively suggests that, preceding the establishment of a German state, Ekhof serves as a father figure for all artistic and practical aspects of German national identity in the eighteenth century (159). Simultaneously, mid-eighteenth-century actresses are characterized as "Störfaktoren" who resist reform, and women are excluded from the discursive realms of the theater. In the final third of the eighteenth century, however, interest in the acting body intensifies and a "Kultus der Schauspielkunst" (221) establishes itself. Hochholdinger-Reiterer posits that, in light of this oscillating masculinization and subsequent feminization of theater, there is a fundamental codependence among the development of the theater of illusion, the rise of realistic-psychological acting, and the naturalization of the two-gender model (275).

The fourth and final chapter, "Nation und Erbe," examines the implications of these gendered cultural changes for German and Austrian national identity, as well as for the history of theater studies, particularly in twentieth-century Austria. …

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