Play the Border – Uta Degner, Doctor from Freie Universität Berlin


Location: 207 DeBartolo Hall

Mind the Gap: Intermedia-Poetics and the Transformation of Esthetic Experience in Brecht and Jelinek

The sphere of art in the 20th century often appears to be characterized by fewer and fewer borders, such as those between “high” and “low” art or between individual media, and by more and more cross-media art. However, this paper will explore ways in which inter-media practices on the contrary serve to set new boundaries – especially within the “home” field of their users. A reinterpretation of intermedia practices and a detailed reconstruction of their historical function will question the boundary-breaking nature of such techniques. In the examples of the prose of Bertolt Brecht and Elfriede Jelinek it can be seen how adaptations from other media, such as film (in the case of Brecht) and television (in the case of Jelinek), do not want to close the gap between “high” literature and popular forms of expression, between literature and the visual media, but are used to develop new concepts of what literature can be – and to reject traditional concepts as old fashioned. With the translocation from cinema to literature, for example, the “filmic” elements in Brecht’s prose undergo a deep transformation of function. Whereas in the field of film they are part of conventions specific to film, in the literary text they serve as a rejection of the traditional modes of narration. Brecht’s theory of “gestus” can be understood as a concept inspired by film with which he modifies the literary concept of the narrating voice. Jelinek follows this line and tries herself to move the borders of what can count as an adequate contemporary literary aesthetic experience.

Supported by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the College of Arts and Letters