Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Cultural Poetology of the Theatrical Entrance

Prof. Dr. Juliane Vogel, Prof. Dr. Christopher Wild (UCLA), Prof. Dr. David Levin (Chicago), Bernice Kaminskij, Annette Kappeler

From October 2010 to September 2011, Prof. Christopher Wild was fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz.
Abstract of his research project



The project understands Shakespeare’s line from “As You Like it” “They have their exits and their entrances” as a strict formal instruction. The project aims at describing the process of entering and exiting as Western theater’s fundamental gesture of technical representation. Its goal is to explore the consistent symbolic structure given speech in Shakespeare’s verses in its cultural-historical transformations and implications. Starting with Aristotle’s poetics, entering and narrating have formed the two central, mutually determining representational techniques in the verbal arts; a cultural-historical theoretical study of narration cannot succeed without outlining a cultural poetics of the entrance—and inversely. This project is meant to offer the building blocks for such a cultural poetology of the theatrical entrance.

Importantly, exits and entrances do not only represent a mechanical necessity of theater; rather, in a very basic manner that points beyond drama, they present those forms and formats regulating the emergence, becoming visible, and public speaking of figures and persona. Beyond the drama as well, they serve to encode, finalize, and formalize social situations, just as their absence or becoming non-binding points to a threatened loss of symbolic power. In the form of entrance developed in the drama—from the scene of agon and the dialogical forms to the reporting of offstage events and the messenger’s report—the rules steering appearance and self-presentation inside and outside the theater are implicitly present. At the same time they help reveal the conditions to which a figure is subsumed when it steps on stage in the context of a dramatic plot. In the broadest sense, the project will examine the forms of on-stage-off-stage communication determining the dramatic action and the social situations stemming from it, as well as the cultural-theoretical implications of the entrance over a threshold and unto the stage—implications tied to the liminal character of the entrance situation. In connection with this, we will also comparatively examine, both historically and culturally, the cultural-theoretical conditions of the theatrical entrance.

This inquiry will draw closely on the range of the theatrical entrance’s historical realizations. A consideration of its enabling techne, against changing historical backdrops and in changing media, is in fact as potentially illuminating as an understanding of its role as a basic symbolic form of social dramaturgy. For this reason, the project will place great emphasis on researching the historical semantics of central forms of theatrical entrance, and on reconstructing the discursive milieu in which they were discussed, made possible, and transformed. Starting with antique tragedy, the project will focus on the entrance’s historical poetology in the context of Europe’s theatrical media and leading theatrical cultures. A basic intention at play here will be to develop a framework for inquiry into the central moments of concrete dramaturgical praxis and its impact on theatrical and social scenography. Our examination of dramatic techne will move from Aristotle’s poetics to the discourse of theatrical technique and the implicit dramaturgy of theater itself. In this manner the essential lines of drama’s formal history as codified in basic dramaturgical concepts become perceptible; and drama can once again be understood as that symbolic form complementing and foiling narration in a cultural space. A goal and main concern of this project is thus answering the questions of how the different rhetorics of theatrical entrance and narration emerge, what forms they take on, and what consequences can be drawn from this for the historical and present-day practices of the individual theatrical forms.

An international and interdisciplinary research group has come together to realize this project. What has been planned is, on the one hand, a broadly oriented academic discussion, conceived in interdisciplinary and trans-historical terms, and, on the other hand, both discussion and cooperation with exponents of present-day practice on various stages (e.g. ballet, theater, and opera), as well as in video and film. In addition, we hope to enrich the project with expertise from the social sciences, to the extent they offer insight into the forms and functions of the theatrical entrance in various societies. 



Juliane Vogel, Christopher Wild (eds.): Auftreten. Wege auf die Bühne. Berlin: Theater der Zeit 2014 (Recherchen, 115).



“They have their exists and their entrances”
Modes of Movement in Drama and Theater

Conference, Berlin
Thu-Sat, 19-21 January 2012