Elfriede Jelinek and Werner Schwab:Heimat Critique and Dissections of Right-wing Populism and Xenophobia

Jürs-Munby, Karen (2020) Elfriede Jelinek and Werner Schwab:Heimat Critique and Dissections of Right-wing Populism and Xenophobia. In: Contemporary European Playwrights. Routledge, London, pp. 44-65. ISBN 9781138084216

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Abstract

This chapter compares the work of Elfriede Jelinek and Werner Schwab, two of Austria’s most prominent contemporary playwrights. It considers the writers’ differences while identifying the considerable affinities between their oeuvres, forms of writing and overlapping political concerns that speak to discussions of European theatre. Thematically, the chapter considers how Jelinek and Schwab vehemently address the postwar legacy of National Socialism and renewed far-right rightwing populism in their native Austria, showing how these are sedimented in everyday discourse. The body of the chapter focusses on the authors’ Heimat critique and dissections of right-wing populism and xenophobia through analysing a number of significant plays by each author and their stagings by European directors. With respect to their form of writing, the chapter explores how both playwrights have been associated with the paradigm of postdramatic theatre, as their linguistic experiments question the concept of dramatic representation by turning a defamiliarizing form of language into the actual protagonist. It traces this focus on language back to an Austrian tradition of language critique (Sprachkritik) that explores the connection between language, thought and perception. Furthermore, it explores how the authors corporeal discourses draw both on an Austrian folk tradition of staging the grotesque body and on Viennese actionism, as well as Schwab’s own practice as a visual artist and Jelinek’s art criticism. The chapter advances the argument that Schwab’s plays have the capacity to shock in their unexpected disruptions of dramatic forms from within conventional forms, while Jelinek’s progressive abandonment of dramatic characters, dialogue and plot structures in favour of polyphonic Textflächen has allowed her to continue to address the most burning social and political issues of our times through multi-layered texts that allow for associations between a wide range of sources, including European dramatic and pre-dramatic traditions. And while Schwab addressed social abjection and its reinforcement by bourgeois naturalism through an artificial idiom, hypernaturalism and devices such as the play within a play, Jelinek’s texts are especially open to postdramatic forms that address the representation of marginalized and excluded groups on the level of theatrical representation itself.

Item Type:
Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings
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ID Code:
142327
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Deposited On:
12 Mar 2020 16:10
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
22 Sep 2020 05:53