Heiner Müller as the End of Brechtian Dramaturgy: Müller on Brecht in Two Lesser-Known Fragments

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Barnett, David (2002)

Two lesser-known fragments written by Heiner Müller in 1979 and 1990 openly refer to Brecht and offer perspectives on the problematic relationship between the two playwrights. Form and content in Brechtian dialectical theatre are treated ironically in both fragments. Müller reveals an ambivalence that accepts the tenets of Brechtian dramaturgy in order to surpass them. Müller criticizes perceived limitations in Brecht's poetics yet redirects the dialectic for the postmodern times in which he lived. The degree to which Müller radicalizes Brecht's principles and practice represents an endpoint of (but not an all-out break with) Brechtian dramaturgy. An important corollary of this conclusion is that Müller is still associated with the Enlightenment project. This latter assertion is at odds with many readings of the later plays as documentations of ‘the end of history’, a category Müller roundly criticized in his life and resisted in his own dialectical drama.
  • References (14)
    14 references, page 1 of 2

    Brecht, Untergang des Egoisten Johannes Fatzer, edited by Heiner MuÈller (Leipzig: Suhrkamp, 1994), p. 29.

    See Bertolt Brecht, Geschichten vom Herrn Keuner (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1971), p. 26.

    Heiner MuÈller, `Da trinke ich lieber Benzin zum FruÈhstuÈck', in Heiner MuÈller, Zur Lage der Nation (Berlin: Rotbuch, 1990), p. 44.

    Heiner MuÈller, Krieg ohne Schlacht. Leben in zwei Diktaturen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer und Witsch, 1992), p. 309.

    Heiner MuÈller, `Fatzer + Keuner', in HoÈrnigk, ed., Heiner MuÈller, pp. 35 ± 6 For arguments to support this assertion, see Moray McGowan, `Marxist ± Postmodernist ± German.

    History and Dramatic Form in the Work of Heiner MuÈller', in Martin Kane, ed., Socialism and the Literary Imagination: Essays on East German Writers (Oxford: Berg, 1991), pp. 125 ± 46; or David Barnett, `Collective Dramaturgy: A Marxist Challenge to the Stage. Or: Heiner MuÈller's Political Theatre of Destruction', Heiner MuÈller: Probleme und Perspektiven (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000), pp.

    45 ± 55. Both articles argue that MuÈller presents his apocalyptic visions in a historicized context, thus suggesting their changeabilty.

    Heiner MuÈller, `Althusser', p. 28.

    Georg BuÈchner, Dantons Tod, in Georg BuÈchner, Werke und Briefe (Munich: DTV, 1980), p. 37.

    Roland Barthes envisages a post-Brechtian theatre which anticipates MuÈller's theatre with eerie precision: `doubtless there would be no dif®culty in ®nding in post-Brechtian theatre . . . mises en scÁene marked by the dispersion of the tableau, the pulling to pieces of the ``composition'', the setting in movement of the ``partial organs'' of the human ®gure, in short the checking of the metaphysical meaning of the work ± but then also of its political meaning; or, at least, the carrying over of this meaning towards another politics', Roland Barthes, `Diderot, Eisenstein, Brecht', in Roland Barthes, Image Music Text, translated by Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977), p. 22.

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