Lecture
23 Apr 2021 · 4.00 pm

Sebastian Kirsch: “Where the sun does not come, there the doctor comes”: Naturalism as Scenic Ecology

Venue: online

Lecture at the online conference Liquidity, Flows, Circulation: The Cultural Logic of Environmentalization at Leuphana University Lüneburg

The paper tries a re-reading of naturalist drama, portraying it as a genuine reaction to contemporaneous environmentalization processes and thus to phenomena of liquefaction that were experienced as a “slow disappearance of matter around 1900” (Christoph Asendorf). First, the focus will be on naturalism’s pronounced reference to the sun, i.e. its strong “solar orientation” (Juliane Vogel) as we can find it particularly in Gerhart Hauptmann (“Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset,” “Helios” …). Not only does naturalist drama expose lighting effects which—due to electrification and thus to new possibilities of “artificial” sunlight—no longer follow a chronological arc. Since it strengthens the milieu-forming powers of lighting, it also portrays patchworks of social groupings defined by diverse lighting conditions.

Against this background, the second step is to show that naturalism generally captures a historical superimposition of a classical “solar order” by a governmentality that seeks to regulate a multitude of flows. This applies not only to the biopolitical administration of modern masses emerging around 1900, i.e. to topics like alcoholism, epidemics, inheritability and eugenics. Rather, naturalist drama is a drama of flows in an even more comprehensive sense: for example with its “discovery” of dialect as an organizing force of language flows, or its thematization of political solidarities as a connecting element of social currents.

The theater scholar Sebastian Kirsch is a Feodor Lynen Research Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the ZfL with the project Knowledge of Surroundings in Theatrical Modernity. Milieu – Umwelt – Environment / Hauptmann – Appia – Kiesler.