A Stage for Debate: The Political Significance of Vienna’s Burgtheater, 1814–1867
Published: June 2023© 2023
232 Pages, 6.25 x 9.28 x 0.75 in, 2 b&w illustrations, 2 b&w figures
A Stage for Debate presents a detailed analysis of the repertoire of the leading German-language stage of the nineteenth century, Vienna’s Burgtheater. The book explores the extent to which the Burgtheater repertoire contributed to important political and cultural debates on individual liberty, the role of women in society, and the understanding of national and regional identity.
The relevance of the Burgtheater as a forum for political debate is assessed not by the degree to which the performed plays transgressed established norms, but by the range of positions that were voiced on a given topic. Martin Wagner investigates the roughly 1,000 plays from across Europe that were introduced to the Burgtheater’s repertoire between 1814 and 1867 by combining a general overview with detailed interpretations of especially successful plays. Wagner reveals that the Burgtheater was significantly more involved in contemporary debates than the stereotype of this stage as an artistically refined but apolitical institution suggests. Drawing from theatre studies and German and Austrian studies more broadly, A Stage for Debate revises the history of one of Europe’s leading theatres.
Introduction: Reassessing the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Burgtheater
1. What Makes a Theatre Politically Significant?
2. Making the Burgtheater Repertoire
3. The Scope of the Burgtheater Repertoire
4. Mourning and Reforming Obedience
5. Performing the Women’s Movement
6. The Drama of National and Regional Belonging
Conclusion: The Mid-Nineteenth-Century Burgtheater as a Case Study
"Despite rigorous Hapsburg censorship, the Vienna Burgtheater developed during the mid-nineteenth century an impressive range of dramatic discussion of such burning questions as individual liberty, nationalism, and women’s role in society. This illuminating study reveals how one of Europe’s most significant theatres dealt with such questions during a critical period in its history."Marvin Carlson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Sidney E. Cohn Chair in Theatre Studies, City University of New York
"Contesting previous dismissals of the Burgtheater as a conservative bastion or a site for frivolous entertainment in the mid-nineteenth century, Martin Wagner compellingly argues that a diverse dramatic repertoire and heterogenous audience made Vienna’s court theatre an important site for public political debate, particularly for Austrian liberalism. This clearly written and well researched book is an essential new resource not only for scholars of Austrian and German theatre, but also for any historian of the Habsburg empire."S.E. Jackson, Associate Professor of German and Scandinavian Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst
"Martin Wagner’s book is a thought-provoking study into the relations between literature, theatre, and society. His in-depth analysis of the Vienna Burgtheater’s polyphonic repertoire shows that in spite of severe censorship the first stage in the Habsburg monarchy was a forum for the discussion of central themes of social concern. He convincingly challenges views of nineteenth-century Austria as a hotbed of political and cultural reaction."Norbert Bachleitner, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, Universität Wien