Subject of the PhD thesis: The Death of Tragedy. Crisis and Transformation of a Dramatic Genre in Postmodern Theatre, are two interrelated topical complexes in the recent history of literature: first, the research-motif of “The Death of Tragedy”–this formula is taken from the correspondent monograph by George Steiner–and second, the latest development of the tragedy as a dramatic genre. If the theater of postmodernism can be characterized by a divergent and disparate juxtaposition of different theatrical idioms, then tragic and tragedy do not turn out to be self-evident, but as conceptions, which have to be developed ever anew. The PhD thesis aims to demonstrate which reasons cause the intense and dynamic misery of “the tragic” within modernity and post-modernity on the one hand and how far the persistency of this particular genre can only be realized in individual cases on the other hand.
The project is based on three methodological approaches: First, the motif of “The Death of Tragedy” will be reconstructed theoretically in its basic reasoning patterns. Its diverse and often ambivalent articulations open up the opposition of historic-philosophical theories, which argue for the expiration of the tragedy in modern literature, and assumptions in genre history of its ongoing relevance. Second, referring to Gérard Genette's theory of a littérature au second dégré the thesis continues with considerations about the “transformation” of the tragedy in the recent development of drama and theatre. Accordingly, the history of this Leading Genre in the European History of Literature attests to its translatability in different historical texts and contexts. On that score, different reception-modalities of this canonical antique paradigm lead subsequently to dissimilar conceptions of tragic in modernity. In the light of advanced intertextual transformation-methods, forms of poetic self-reflection and post-dramatic transgressions to the performance arts it can be shown to what extent tragedy in postmodern theatre changes its physiognomy and develops new and genre-defining aspects. Third, based on this understanding of the generic development of the tragedy, the project pursues with a comparison of recent German- and English-speaking dramas and theatrical texts, which deal with this literary-historical paradigm poetically. As tertium comparationis the analysis addresses both: specific and distinct individual as well as comprehensive, national and cultural answers to the crisis of tragedy. Thus, the various theoretical and poetical conceptions of the death and the persistence of this genre can be contrasted, profiled and critically scrutinized.