Druckversion   

Reinhart Meyer-Kalkus

Between Pathos and its Atrophy

The Art of Elocution in Germany After 1945



1. The Topos of the Fading of Pathos after 1945

In ancient rhetoric, "pathos" was regarded as the vehement emotion that orators or actors could evoke in listeners and viewers. With this meaning, the term entered into modern rhetorics and poetologies including and up to Lessing and Goethe. Not until the 1920s did it experience a fundamental change, in that its semantics were narrowed to the pejorative aspects, to false pathos. Today, if we speak in German of "pathos" or "pathetic," we generally mean an exaggeration of expression, stilted sublimity, embarrassing emphasis, or even kitsch.[1]

Apparently, this semantic shift corresponds to deep changes in social behavior and taste since the end of World War I. "Not only the silent film, but also the theater and today's style of living avoid what is specifically pathetic wherever they can," wrote the language psychologist Karl Bühler in 1934 in his Ausdruckstheorie (theory of expression). One avoided everything "that is brought forth as expressive as an end in itself and is thus separated from pertinent action and from objectively depicting speech. Avoids it and prefers to reveal how one feels between the lines."[2]

Thus speaks a member of the generation of the twenties' "Neue Sachlichkeit" (New Objectivity) who prizes the art of indirect intimation, irony, and refined gestural and sign language.[3] Of course, Bühler didn't think that politicians' speeches would have to eschew all pathos in the future. It merely had to be sought with other verbal, gestural, and argumentative means of expression to achieve its purpose. In certain situations, a game of glances and gestures, quoting a statistic, or reading aloud a list of names could have a more rousing effect than any direct emotional expression or appeal.

Similar thoughts are found in other authors of the 1920s, for example Robert Musil and Bertolt Brecht. Once, after Brecht heard an "old-style reciter" who had charged "all the words with mood, a kind of program (‘stuffed words in applesauce')," he wrote, "I propound declamation in an open, non-pastoral tone with the avoidance of sonorous cadences, crescendos, and tremolos."[4] Brecht and other contemporaries[5] are allergic to the traditional "Schiller tone" that dominated in the theater and in school recitation exercises in imperial Germany and that had penetrated public speaking from the pulpit, on the ceremonial stage, and in political meetings: that strained-emphatic and over-articulated diction of stage High German.[6] For Brecht, pathos is almost synonymous with the "sonorous cadences, crescendos, and tremolos" of stage declamation in the tradition of the Schiller tone.[7] This tone modulates all speaking a few intervals higher, into the seemingly nobler, more genteel, more meaningful registers. It is this legacy of idealistic pathos, so fateful in the German tradition, that claims to be the badge of higher dignity, truth, and authenticity and yet can most easily be imitated and reproduced. When such speech and the educationally idealistic stances underlying it square off, the use of the terms "pathos" and "pathetic" is gradually reduced to their negative aspects, to false pathos.[8]

After 1945, this turn away from pathos led to the pan-German topos of the atrophy of pathos in the elocutionary arts. As the scholar of German literature and journalist Jens Bisky recently wrote:



The pathos of higher elocutionary art, like the will to overwhelm, have fallen into disrepute because of the demagogues' speeches of the Third Reich and have become marginalized by the triumphal march of radio and sound film. The postwar era speaks more soberly, even when articulating the murkiest thoughts, and more quotidianly, more tuned to the middle ranges.[9]



This thesis has become common property, also in the humanities. The linguist Johannes Schwitalla tried to substantiate it with the example of the prosody of politicians' speeches in the twentieth century.[10] After the Nazi era, the style of public speeches in West Germany went through a fundamental change, "away from a pathetic toward a calm, objective, even private style of speaking." With a problematic methodology, Schwitalla takes Hitler's climactic style of speaking as his starting point and measuring stick. He says Hitler used "figures of climax with multiply repeated global intensifications through respectively higher levels of tone, greater volume, and increasing tempo to an absolute peak, upon which a sudden, great fall in tone and volume follows"[11] - the prototype of an "ecstatic way of speaking."[12] In the speeches of postwar politicians like Konrad Adenauer, Theodor Heuss, Ernst Reuter, Erich Ollenhauer, Herbert Wehner, and Erich Benda, however, Schwitalla notes a fundamental change toward a subdued and more media-conscious style of speaking. He asserts that Roosevelt's "fireside chats", which were broadcast over the radio during World War II, were one of the things shaping speaking style.[13] Schwitalla sums up:



The historical tendency to casual and quiet speaking in the media has various causes. They lie in our society's understanding of democracy; they lie in the skepticism, acquired through painful experience, toward big words and heroic tones; they lie in the technical amplification of the voice by means of loudspeakers, which render it unnecessary to speak loudly and at a high pitch to fill a vast room. And not least they lie in the media of radio and television themselves, which bring the politicians close to us when they speak, so that all exaggerating gestural and vocal expressions are distorted.[14]



However many of these observations are plausible, the conclusions about political rhetoric drawn from them do not seem sound. At election campaign rallies and other mass events and even in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, we hear again and again examples not only of emphatic, but also of pathetic-ecstatic speaking. We need not take recourse to the speeches of Franz-Josef Strauss, Herbert Wehner, or Willy Brandt; examples are also found in today's generation of politicians. Certainly, we expect from a politician that "he maintains a ‘cool head' even in difficult situations, speaks calmly and without recognizable strain, makes the audience laugh, and masters several modalities of speech from a restrained, thoughtful tone to urgent speaking."[15] But for combative situations, he must also master the pathetic, rousing register to emotionally fuse the listeners together and create a group resolved for joint action. Demand for this task of the political speaker is not restricted to nationalistically moved times in which the rational and argumentatively balancing forms of discourse were discredited.[16] Politicians in modern mass democracies can't elude this task, either, especially in situations of sharp polarization between political camps. Here, outrage over unjust conditions, abhorrence of the political opponent, combativeness, and personal exertion must be brought to expression in phonetic symbolism. Politicians like Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer who are media-conscious in their self-presentation also had the gift of shifting to the pathetic-aroused register at the decisive moment. A media-conveyed democracy cannot relinquish such rhetorical rituals of a leader's speech demonstrating indignation and resolution and a responding group of adherents.

Vanishing pathos in the political speech? This thesis should be modified. The expressive functions of what ancient rhetoric called pathos - to carry away, shake, and overwhelm - still want to be fulfilled, but with contemporary forms of expression and arguments, varying with the situation and audience. How does this apply to the performing arts with which, since the second half of the nineteenth century, political rhetoric has maintained a kind of osmotic relationship: when prose is read aloud, poetry is recited, or text is declaimed on the theater stage? The historian of literary elocution in Germany, Irmgard Weithase, says she observes a constant alternation between extensive and intensive speaking styles since the Sturm und Drang generation in the eighteenth century.[17] Weithase adopts an older interpretive model of the change in styles in literature, one that has become obsolete today, in which rationalistic and irrationalistic tendencies trade off as if in single file through the centuries. Accordingly, a shift between intensive and extensive styles of speech can be observed since Goethe's era, whereby extensive-irrationalistic speaking is characterized by "emphasizing the increase in voice volume and tempo and the heavy application of timbres," while the intensive style of speaking, by contrast, displays a preference for speech melody. In National Socialism, she asserts, the extensive speech style experienced its last breakthrough - in contrast to the Neue Sachlichkeit of the Weimar Republic. After the end of World War II, it was replaced by a phase of the intensive style of speaking, for which media-historical changes were primarily responsible: "The microphone permits no great increases of voice volume, no heavily applied timbres, no complete playing out of affects."[18] Since 1945, she says, the recitation of literary texts by reciters and laypeople (for example, in German class in school) has been subject to this fundamental shift from extensive to intensive speaking:



For it will achieve its goal not through the coarse means of the greatest increase in voice volume and tempo and of the dramatic depiction of feelings, but through immersion in the content and substance of the composition, through expressions characterizing this content and substance with the aid of a rich scale of timbres, and by staging the rhythmic-melodic individuality of the respective writing, whereby the finest variations in tempo and minor changes in pitch are often more telling than a form of presentation that swings from one extreme to the other, i.e., whispers and yells, drawing the words out and then suddenly accelerating tempo to the point where individual words are hard to understand, a form that first imitates the direct quotation of a young girl with the most delicate, squeaky voice, only to thunderingly present the words of a heavy hero shortly thereafter in the deepest bass.[19]



Weithase, too, pays tribute to the topos of vanishing pathos after the excess of pathos in National Socialism.[20] One gets the impression that this argument - asserted for the first time in an East German publication from the year 1949 - is a legend of history based much less on the actual history of the art of recitation in Germany than on the desire for legitimization on the part of most representatives of German language education and linguistics, who, almost without exception and including Ingrid Weithase herself,[21] had compromised themselves politically and ideologically under National Socialism. Where language education had been placed in the service of nationalistic education, now people swung around and postulated a radical break with the past. The globalizing concepts of the history of style came in handy for this way of disposing of history. As academic disciplines, speech training and linguistics could position themselves with the offer of a new style of speaking.

In recent decades, the theoretician of verbal presentation from Halle, Eva Maria Krech, renewed the thesis of vanishing pathos and developed it into a historical grand panorama:



Especially since the last third of the nineteenth century until the end of World War II, a bombastic, exaggerated style of elocution tending to false pathos was dominant in Germany. Among the most essential characteristics of the declamatory style of speaking in this period was above all a pathos in the shaping of speech that today is experienced as spurious and false... The movements of the speech melody are usually sweeping, as well as rapidly and abruptly changing. Loudness and speech velocity are often realized in their extreme forms and also change frequently, conspicuously, and unexpectedly, i.e., in a manner inadequate to the text and the situation. The shaping of pauses often seems arbitrary. ... The tension of speaking is... usually strong, which can lead both to a conspicuously extensive as well as to a conspicuously intensive shaping...[22]

None of the opposite tendencies fit within this tableau of a dominance of false pathos since the last third of the nineteenth century until 1945, of course, although they definitely existed, for example Naturalism's criticism of the sonorous bombast of the Schiller tone (explicitly in Gerhard Hauptmann's The Rats, for example), or Hugo von Hofmannsthal's emphatic, but thoroughly unpathetic diction with its clear, metrically regulated form of elocution (of which we possess a phonographic recording from 1906), or Berlin's Sturm circle's struggle (for example by Rodolf Blümner) against the Schiller tone and false pathos, or Stefan George's insistence on a powerfully rhythmicized, meaningful recitation of poems that avoids all affected emotionality, or finally the tendencies of the Neue Sachlichkeit in the theater of Bertolt Brecht and Erich Piscator. Simply read the Der Kampf ums Theater[23] (the struggle for the theater) by the important drama critic Herbert Jhering to see how precisely the highly sensitive among the directors, actors, and critics urged a changed elocutionary art going beyond the declamatory stage style and the theater of asseveration.

Perhaps one day a more thorough evaluation of the sound recordings that have come down to us in the sound archives will make us aware that the history of elocutionary art in twentieth-century Germany must be written completely differently. For if we exclude the singular screamer Hitler and a few state-power actors like Heinrich George, then we'll recognize in many testimonies of the period from 1933 to 1945 elocutionary traditions from the Weimar Republic, including those of an underscored objectivity and intensive mode of speech, for example in Erich Drach, the founder of university speech training in Germany, or in Gottfried Benn's underscored sobriety when reciting poems on the radio until 1934, or in the theater in Gustav Gründgens's and Marianne Hoppe's cultivation of the classics at the end of the 1930s and early 1940s, to name only a few examples.

There was no "speech style of the Nazi period," and Hitler's idiosyncratic bellowing speech was in no ways normative for the prosody and dynamics of public addresses in the Third Reich, even if many subaltern party members imitated it.[24] Just as it goes unnoticed that many of the 1920s' tendencies in elocutionary art continued to be cultivated in the Nazi period - especially in theaters, on reading stages, and on the radio - so, too, the continuities beyond 1945 are ignored. The traditions of professional elocutionary art, anchored in acting schools and the oral traditions of standard-setting theaters (like Vienna's Burgtheater and the theaters in Munich, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, and Berlin), were probably stabler than we imagine today. Aside from the emigrants (like Fritz Kortner, Ernst Deutsch, Erwin Piscator, Bertolt Brecht, Leonard Steckel, and Ernst Ginsberg), the influential figures of German-language theater in the 1950s, almost without exception, began or made their careers under the Nazis: directors like Gustav Gründgens, Heinz Hilpert, and Jürgen Fehling and actors like Will Quadflieg, Marianne Hoppe, Ewald Balser, and Bernhard Minetti.

Certainly, cases of a classical restraint can be found among the elocutionary artists of the 1950s, if one wants to: an intensive way of speaking. Just consider all the artists whose recitations were captured in the fifties in the "Literarisches Archiv" (a series of records produced by the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft), including Ernst Ginsberg, Maria Becker, Mathias Wieman, Will Quadflieg, and Gert Westphal. But simultaneously there are examples of a repatheticization of elocution that don't fit in the idealized image of a restrained recitation[25], but are as wild, loud, and singsongy as at the height of the Weimar Republic, for example by Fritz Kortner, Klaus Kinski, and Oskar Werner. Listening just once to recordings from the fifties, for example Maria Wimmer's Iphigenie in the Recklinghaus production of 1956, Fritz Kortner's Lear in 1958, or Will Quadflieg's Tasso in 1961, shows one highly expressive declamations that don't shy from pathos, also after 1945 - and they can still shake us today.[26]

This simultaneity of the nonsimultaneous, of various styles, schools, and traditions, cannot be pressed into the categories of a regularly clocked or teleologically progressing history of style, i.e., of an alternation between extensive and intensive speaking, much less a continuous dwindling of pathos. We recognize continuities where we would not expect them and discontinuities where we assumed a homogeneous level of expression. The concepts of a totalitarianizing history of style will not help us grasp such intertwinings of continuities and discontinuities. We cannot do without the category of style - as the structured unity of the manifold - when analyzing elocutionary art; but the patterns of the history of style are inappropriate for a differentiated historical understanding. Instead, we will have to distinguish among school traditions of speaking, group formations, and individual talents and to interpret the eventfulness of individual performances as nodes of disparate temporal layers of oral traditions.

Surprisingly, the Salzburg linguist Beatrix Schönherr recently revived the thesis of the progressing vanishing of pathos on theater stages and tried to bolster it with a comparative look at speaking on stage in the last fifty years.[27] She tries to support her thesis with an examination of various stagings of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and of Goethe's Faust I, concentrating thereby on the prosodic-suprasegmental traits of accent, the course of tone frequencies, and volumes, which she reconstructs precisely with the aid of the mode of notation used by modern prosody research. In sum, she thinks she can observe "a decline of the pathetic way of speaking" since the sixties: "Pathetic means of expression are apparently being displaced from ever more domains and replaced by forms of communication that stand closer to the culture of everyday life."[28]

Here I presume that this hypothesis would create substantial difficulties for an attentive theatergoer who has experienced the last twenty years of Berlin theater: the works of Andrea Breth, Luc Bondy, Christoph Marthaler, Claus Peymann, Frank Castorff, and more recently of Jürgen Gosch and Michael Thalheimer are generally anything but "cool" in their style of speaking, and for some years now a downright Neo-Expressionism can be observed on our theater stages. What is interesting here are the theoretical-systematic implications of Schönherr's study. She rightly claims that, from a linguistic-pragmatic standpoint, there is no "standard linguistic definition of pathos": "Whether a mode of speaking is felt to be pathetic probably depends [...] on whether, from the standpoint of the everyday expectation of normal form, it is experienced as deviating markedly ‘upward,' from the speaking style regarded as suitable in a given communication situation, as ‘exalted' or ‘ennobled.' This would make strikingly intense emphasis a formal characteristic of pathos."[29]

Schönherr thereby addresses a theoretical-systematical problem of every investigation of pathos. What is experienced and evaluated depends crucially on the given speech situation and the expectations of the listeners. Only here is it possible to decide whether something deviates ‘upward' and whether something shakes or even overwhelms the listener. Someone who is not part of this situation cannot really judge the pathos of a speech. Second, one can never make only a single linguistic dimension responsible for emphatic speaking, for example strong accentuation, changes in volume, or extension of the vowels; rather, one must assume a "co-occurrence" (a simultaneous presence) of very disparate prosodic-syntactical and lexico-semantic characteristics.[30] Third, pathos depends on the inter-media interplay between verbal and nonverbal signals and gestures, facial expressions and stances. Speech style alone is only one component of what can exercise a pathetic effect. Thus, the voice can seem complete unemotional but, in combination with bodily actions, convey the highest degree of pathos, for example in the dramaturgy of Heiner Müller and Heiner Goebbels.

In describing pathos in the theater and on reading stages, factors other than the effect of pathos, the co-occurrence of various linguistic means, and the intermediality of voice and body should be taken into account. Unlike in classicistic forms of theater, which strive for a unity of style in all dramatic situations, the general case in theater since the eighteenth century, especially comic theater, is its polyphony, i.e., the intertwining of levels of style, forms of speech, and idioms. Under this condition, pathos is no longer tied to a continuous high level of style (as in the ancient and renaissencesque so-called Rotae Virgilii rule, i.e., the three-style rule that presupposes a strict correspondence between intended effect, addressee, object, and style), but is effective as something momentarily overwhelming precisely because of the alternation between high and low, serious and comic passages, as well as because of the polyphony of various voices and modes of speaking. Unheard-of and thrilling forms of expression arise precisely in the unsuspected shift in tones.

In addition, there is another change: unlike under the conditions of the rhetorical age (i.e., of the poetological-rhetorical thinking of the Italian Renaissance and its rediscovery of ancient rhetoric up to Gottsched), since the middle of the eighteenth century one no longer speaks of pathos as a specific affect or a passion (for example, powerful love, wrath, outrage, and suffering) that is expressed with the aid of gestural and linguistic means and aroused in the listener. Rather, under the conditions of the expressive aesthetic launched in Germany with Herder and Goethe, the expression of the whole person is always at stake. The person does not express a specific affect, but himself. Even if one installs in this subjectivity a lower storey of the unconscious (in contrast to German Idealism's idealistic subjectivity philosophy), i.e., a subjectivity of the unconscious, one still expects an "expression of oneself" rather than an "expression of something" from the pathetic forms of self-presentation. Pathos aims at the symbolic depiction of what actually cannot be depicted, because it has to do with the whole person. And so one doesn't say that someone brought his suffering or his outrage to expression completely authentically, but rather that, as a sufferer or outraged person, he had a shattering or rousing effect or, if he is an actor, that he was convincing as a sufferer. We want the whole person, not just his affects.

My thesis is therefore that, using speech or linguistic analyses alone, one can grasp only partial aspects of the phenomenon of pathos. To reduce pathos to the prosodic and dynamic aspects of emphatic speaking would mean merely underscoring formal aspects that become significant only in their interweaving with other factors. In the background, ultimately, lie basic mental changes in the experience and self-interpretation of subjectivity and in the corresponding discourses in philosophy, drama criticism, and philology. Only on this horizon of a history of subjectivity and its discourses[31] do the changes in pathetic speaking become comprehensible.



2. Differentiation of the Concept and Phenomenon of Pathos

1. The traditions of rhetoric since Classical Antiquity still offer the most useful concepts for examining our ideas of pathos in its historical and systematic-theoretical preconditions and for working out its form-analytical correlatives. Aspects of effect and form structures, meaning and style, verbal and nonverbal behavior are always systematically related to each other here.[32] In the ancient tradition, pathos can be activated with the aid of a wide variety of means of expression, depending on the situation, listener expectation, object, and speaker. Precisely because it is something unforeseeable, it cannot be pinned down with a canon of vocal and nonverbal means of expression. As Quintillian's doctrine of actio and pronuntiatio first systematically presented, even idiosyncratic peculiarities of pronunciation or heavy breathing can have a shaking effect. Not least: what can be effective coming from one speaker can seem mannered from another.[33] Even if the term "pathos" continues to be used pejoratively today, we should hold onto it because we have no better one to designate the specific aesthetically effective qualities of vehement shaking and emotional movement.[34] Pathos as the momentarily overwhelming and shaking quality remains a fundamental effective function of all elocutionary art and theater - and equally of the art of speech in politics and the public realm.[35]

2. But pathos knows extremely disparate aesthetically effective forms of appearance and variants, ranging from the pathetic-horrifying to the emphatic-sublime. Some of these variants are listed in Pseudo-Longinus's tractate On the Sublime (Peri Hypsous). Here, for example, he distinguishes between a pathos that joins the sublime and a pathos that is "definitely not sublime, but lowly, for example cries of lamentation, pains, and fears."[36] Here a sublime pathos, there a pathos of the painful, shocking, and gruesome.[37] On the other hand, according to Pseudo-Longinus there are manifestations of the sublime or of the emphatic that are entirely unpathetic, for example in festive speeches and panegyrics; and finally there are also strange mixed forms of pathos and involuntary comedy, joking sentimentality, and irony.[38]

Beatrix Schönherr includes in the "emphatic or pathetic style of speech"[39] a whole canon of prosodic parameters in expressive function, such as setting pauses, the tension of speech (which accompanies a general tension of the body), and the emphatic accent.[40] Emphatic or tensed diction underlies the "educated" tone of stage High German that is widely resisted today; but mixed with other tones, it can definitely be effective. The speeches of Germany's former Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker - one recalls how they always sounded like they belonged at a Lutheran Church conference - were an example of this type of emphatic speaking, and his successors have also practiced this genre. Emphatic speaking is virtually emotionally moving, if not eo ipso pathetic.

To distinguish itself from the emphatic, the pathetic-sublime indeed needs an addition, like the symbolization of arousals or sufferings that must seem cable of being overcome. The bodily and emotional sufferings must be confronted - in whatever way - with a "nonetheless." One is rightly reminded of Schiller's doctrine of the pathetic-sublime, in which this function was described, even if in the terms of an idealistic anthropology.[41]

3. In distinction from the various variants of the pathos that shakes one (the pathetic-horrifying, the pathetic-sublime, and the emphatic-sublime), ancient rhetoric already described a series of atrophied or deformed modes of pathos that do not fulfill the desired aesthetically effective function, like empty pathos - "inflated forms of expression that are not justified by an equally large content,"[42] magniloquence ("bloated and artificial swellings" of the body of speech - like a thin man with dropsy),[43] false enthusiasm (parenthyrsis),[44] the childishly affected, and the frigid.[45] Most of these atrophied and deformed kinds of pathos have something theatrical about them and seem mannered: excessively elevated in tone and at the same time as if disguised behind acoustic masks that seem play-acted and imitated.[46] The entire repertoire of what Fritz Kortner opposed as a "theater of assertion" falls within this category of theatricality:[47] the routine application of seemingly tested gestures and tones of expression from an arsenal of clichés and the assertion of suffering and affects instead of their embodiment.[48]

In its striving to generalize its concepts, theater scholarship described theatricality or theatralization as a general characteristic of performative activity, both on the stage an in other social situations: one acts in the "bodily co-presence" of spectators and one sees oneself being seen. "The performance arises as the result of the interaction between actors and viewers."[49] But this pushes into the background the critical point of the concept of the theatrical that I would like to stick with. I understand the term pathetic-theatrical to mean the peculiar perception of listeners and viewers that the same tone is too high and is beyond the immediate addressee, on the one hand, while on the other hand it is precisely this tone that disguises and masks the speaker, i.e., it addresses the other and is an acoustic mask at the same time. If we seek a theoretical foundation for this experience, we could think of Jacques Lacan's psychoanalytical ideas about voice and gaze, the communicative and the scopic drive - but that goes beyond the scope of this essay.

4. In the last fifty years, almost unnoticed and without anyone giving an account of it, a new exalted stage pathos has developed that gains its peculiar fascination from the mixture of theatrical pathos and unintended irony - perhaps for the first time in Bruno Ganz's Tasso performance in 1968, but then from Thomas Bernhard's and Botho Strauss's "theater of the oddballs" to the current productions of Marthaler and Thalheimer. The hero is stripped of everything heroic and appears involuntarily ridiculous, precisely in his paroxysms of pain that seem exaggeratedly loud, and precisely this display of theatrical pathos and comedy can be touching and even shaking in a new way, if suddenly an existential forlornness opens up behind the acoustic masks and false notes.

As we read in Christa Wolf's novel Kein Ort. Nirgends (No Place on Earth), Heinrich von Kleist has "something comical about him precisely when he is serious and vehement, but she couldn't say why."[50] It is an experience probably typical of a generation that we cannot help perceiving many pathetic-sublime forms of expression as ridiculous. The laughter of the audience in scenes of pathos in contemporary Schiller dramas is downright obsessive, as if the viewers wanted to extinguish the feeling of embarrassment or merely the strain of the emotional tension. He who aims with words for the heights and uses powerful accents and strong volume contrasts runs the danger of seeming merely quaint and comical in his desperate seriousness - as the theater stage mercilessly exposes.[51] Apparently we can accept the heroic only in behavior and actions anymore, but no longer in resounding splendor in words. Here playing down and understatement have become the norm. This reaction points to the deeper dispositions of our apparent abstinence from pathos, to the fundamental changes that male and female heroic stereotypes are subject to, and thereby to the changes in the experience and self-interpretation of subjectivity.

As Musil put it, forms of pathetic self-presentation are subject to an ineluctable process of wear and tear. If they are momentarily convincing, in the next moment they can already appear theatrical, merely play-acted and imitative. Then we are embarrassed, instead of being overcome by pathos. The discrepancy between the intimacy of the asserted relation to oneself and the exteriority of its acoustic masks repels us, as if something intimate, which one could endure at most in silence, were being trumpeted out with a false volume and too grand a gesture. Such wear is indeed the mortal enemy of every means of pathetic expression. False pathos always sounds as if brought along from school and acting school - simply puerile. That's precisely why mixed styles are so welcome, like the combination of pathos and irony, pathetic understatement, and the many-faceted forms of indirect insinuation, but also the overwound forms of overdramatization that allow us to feel a great pain behind the exaggeration and theatricalization.

Quiet or maintaining silence has proven to be one of the most effective forms of pathetic self-presentation, especially in contrast to the exalted theatricality of Neo-Expressionism. Nothing is more gripping than when one falls mute in objectively presented suffering.[52] With these means, one can find a new point even in means of expression that seem standardized: one interrupts, pauses to collect oneself, breaks off. In these gestural moments, something becomes quietly loud, something that, if it were spoken out, could only seem theatrical. No wonder that intelligent recent stagings of the traditional language of pathos, for example the Schaubühne theater's productions of Kleist's dramas in Berlin in the 1970s, made use of this means of falling mute and gesturally breaking off in interplay with passages of hysterical self-presentation, thereby mixing theatrical pathos with unintentional comedy.



3. Coordinates of a History of Elocutionary Art

If one no longer wants to adhere to the thesis of successive steps of the atrophy of pathos, nor to the idea of a single-file march of styles, nor of an up and down alternation of powerful and restrained speech, then the question is: How can elocutionary art in the twentieth century be described in a historically adequate way? I would like to sketch six coordinates that must be taken into account as the conditions for the change in elocutionary art if one wants to do any justice to the complexity of the processes. These changes are on differing levels and in different temporal layers, and they unfold at different speeds and with differing degrees of influence.[53]

For a history of elocutionary art, it goes without saying that the various traditional modes of presentation cannot be judged by normative standards (like appropriateness or truth to the work). Nor is the author's reading the authoritative model for reciting a text; rather, it is one form of presentation among others (of course, it is one that provides indications of the underlying poetics of the presentation and of the author's intentions). Historicizing elocutionary art means trying to understand it in its respective historical, cultural, institutional-historical, and media-historical context and within the horizon of oral traditions and their changes. In each act of production and reception, this relation to tradition must be presupposed if we are to understand the particularities of the performance.

The changing forms of self-interpretation and of the experience of subjectivity that underlie the change in elocutionary art must be taken into account from the beginning. These ideas on pathos and theatricality should have made it clear that this is not an immanent change of style in speech, but a change in the fundamental premises of self-relationship and of the self-interpretation of subjectivity that are interwoven in elocutionary art. Robert Musil left us some illuminating thoughts. In one place, he speaks of a new gesture or "life gesticulation" in which the human being thinks "he knows himself," whereupon "the young souls" plunge "like sparrows from the rooftops when one scatters birdfeed." Musil tried to illustrate such life gestures with a technical-mechanical metaphor:



Is anything more natural than that every passionate person appropriates this new form before the ordinary person does?! It gives him the moment of being, the balance of tension between interior and exterior, between being crushed and flying apart. So the constant phenomenon that one calls new generation, fathers and sons, mental upheaval, change of style, development, fashion and renewal [...] is based on nothing else. What makes existence's urge to renovate into a perpetuum mobile is nothing but the adversity that inserts a pseudo-self, an approximately fitting group-soul, between one's nebulous own self and the self of the predecessors that has rigidified into an alien husk. And if one merely pays a little attention, one can probably always see the coming Old Time in the just-arrived most recent future.[54]



This is one of the most profound descriptions of the form-shifting of human expressive behavior. Various "life gesticulations" lend a vague interior expression and allow us not only to express what is unclearly felt, but also to delimit ourselves from others. Musil does not say what is stronger here - the urge to expression or the desire for social distinction. Instead, he emphasizes that each respectively new form already carries the seed of its replacement, because it inserts itself as a "pseudo-self" between this self and the others and in reality is only an "approximately fitting group-soul." The dynamic of the change of styles and fashions is based on precisely this dialectic. The self learns all too rapidly that, in these forms of expression that it has borrowed from others or imitated (if it has created them itself), it alienates itself as in a "petrified lunar landscape of feeling."[55] Thus begins the search for the new with new "escape attempts."[56]

"Expression of an inner pressure," "balance of tension between interior and exterior, between being crushed and flying apart" - with these technoid metaphors of a "technology of being,"[57] Musil tries to grasp the difference in tension to which each new life gesture, indeed every new feeling for style is owed, understood as the discrepancy between the self-relationship of subjectivity (the interior) and the external forms of depiction, which are experienced as adequate only for a moment, then once again seeming inappropriate. Such forms of the "expression of an inner pressure" (like a new turn of phrase, a gesture, a moustache fashion) have, on the one hand, something of a masquerade about them, i.e., something inauthentic and merely fictional (especially in retrospect, when the gesture has lost its substance; on the other hand, they are imitated by others and find their way into the communication of a whole group of people.

In this passage, Musil does not deal with aspects like style parody, irony, inauthenticity, and ambivalence, i.e., aspects with which the subjective individual himself can still convey the inappropriateness of his respective forms of expression. Such forms of lived inauthenticity that are integrated in subjectivity are, after all, a leitmotif of his great novel. Musil has a sharp consciousness of the complexity of every expression and of the fact that, as he once demands in another passage of the actor in distinction from the opera singer, "it must be clear how much finer the vocal chords and ear must be when they are to reproduce the beats of the speaking soul that often seems to be speaking of something quite different."[58] When a person speaks, various ideas and speeches always flow confusedly; that is Musil's premise of an impressionistic elocutionary art of the inauthentic, the evasive, and the ambiguous. From the horizon of these ideas, the change in fashion and speaking styles appears as part of the history of subjectivity, if one wants to use this emphatic term to designate the changing mental preconditions under which people interpret themselves and experience.

The changes in the media-technological settings of elocutionary art must be taken into account in another way. In 1933, Ernst Jünger wrote that there are certain voices "that are in no way suitable for the microphone anymore, for example those of the old-style masters of ceremonies, whose false pathos is mercilessly revealed by mechanical reproduction."[59] The traditional bourgeois world of life with its voices and faces is no match for the "attack" of the technical media. The effect that changing technologies of amplification by microphone and loudspeaker, of recording, storing, and distributing by record, radio, tape, and CD really have on elocutionary art still remains to be differentiated. Many media sciences have raised exaggerated expectations about the explanatory power of a history of the media, as if the dynamic of changes, for example in elocutionary art, could be deduced from the material media-technological conditions of their recording and amplification. It is unmistakably certain that the development of technically more powerful microphones and recording methods since the 1950s has made it possible to differentiate better in dynamics, i.e., the loud-soft contrasts of elocutionary art, as well as in the use of sonorous indicators like breathing and other vocal peculiarities (like smiling, sighing, moaning, weeping), which are captured as in close-up pictures. But it is uncertain what feedback effects the technical processes of amplification, recording, and processing have really had on elocutionary art. It appears to me that the indirect inter-medial feedback effects of radio, television, and film were much more lasting. The ears of reciters and public readers, along with those of their audience, are attuned to the tones of voice and gestures conveyed by other media, and every presentation, whether on the theater stage or in the lecture hall, is consciously or unconsciously measured against them. But this in no way means that the elocutionary artists are forced into imitation or conformity; on the contrary, it seems to be a privilege to work on the stage or lecture hall and, in dealing with the media, to be able to develop art forms all one's own, like that exalted pathos that is absolutely inconceivable in radio, film, and television, but that meanwhile flourishes on German stages.[60]

Linguistic-historical and language-aesthetic processes of change and differentiation must be taken into account, quite apart from media-historical changes. An example of this is the change in norms of pronunciation. What makes recordings of Josef Kainz, Alexander Moissi, and even Will Quadflieg sound so outdated, if not downright kitschy,  is the pathetic tremolo and the rolling "r" that saws apart the presentation. Neither stylistic trait is an idiosyncrasy of these elocutionary artists; rather, they are characteristics of a culture of speaking taught in schools until well into the 1960s. Since Goethe's time, the rolled "r" was recommended over the throaty "r" as a means of enunciation; and actors and German teachers cultivated it as a pronunciation norm. But already in the 1920s, colloquial speech began to change: the uvular or throaty "r" sounded much less aggressive and seemed better suited to a nonchalant, lackadaisical, conversational tone, as practiced by Heinz Rühmann and other film stars of the 1930s. But this language-aesthetic change, fostered by the "talkies" and popular culture, provoked the conscious resistance of linguists and theater people. As late as 1957, we read in Siebs (the then-normative pronunciation lexicon for High German) that the tongue-tip form of the "r" is preferable to the uvular "r," because it enhances the clarity and understandability of spoken language. Until the mid-sixties, the rolled "r" was a badge of professional speech training and did not become obsolete until after 1968. Since then, apart from southern German dialects, it has existed only in parody.

The situation is similar with the pathetic tremolo, which Fritz Kortner and Will Quadflieg practiced until then and which did not become obsolete until the seventies and eighties - paralleling the fate of the exaggerated tremolo in violin playing since musicians gained experience with the so-called historical performance practice in music and with too-bright vowels (for example, in the "i") in choir and solo singing, for example in Bach recordings by Karl Richter or in Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's Lieder singing, which suddenly seem strange and outmoded.

This transformation of the fundamental conditions of elocutionary culture goes hand in hand with endogenous processes in the performing arts, which I would like call by a term from American anthropology, "interperformativity." This term is recognizably formed in analogy to the term derived from Michail Bachtin's writings: "intertextuality," i.e., literature's dialogical relationship to traditional literary means of depiction, with which every text must deal before it finds its own tone. According to the research of American anthropologists like Richard Bauman, John Miles Foley, and Dell Hymes, virtuoso recitation has different specific conditions than other forms of oral presentation do; the performer submits himself to an audience's judgment in regard to his artistry, to his entertaining or educational effect, and finally to the suitability and perhaps even the correctness of his interpretation of specific texts. He is thereby subject to expectations deriving from past and contemporary performances; and since the twentieth century, thanks to phonographs and sound archives, these are much more present in the audience's mind than they were at any other historical time. The performer can shape his presentation in accordance with the artistic norms of the school he comes from or of the artistic group he belongs to; but he can also dissociate himself from these familiar and expected forms of presentation and strive for another interpretation of the text; or, what is the normal case, he can do both at the same time and offer a mixture of recognizable and innovative components. But he cannot escape the necessity to take some kind of stand toward the existing and simultaneous forms of presentation. This is precisely what the term "interperformativity" tries to get at.[61]

Performative artists who strive for excellence are in a constant dialogical interchange with predecessors and contemporaries, especially since they have become subject to the star cult and with it the necessity for an unmistakable physiognomy of recognizable sound and look.[62] To understand the driving forces of these processes, the term introduced by Pierre Bourdieu, "distinction," may be useful. According to Bourdieu, the concern for social distinction is a crucial motor of social differentiation, i.e., of dissociation and group formation.[63] We needn't go as far as Bourdieu does and postulate a firm correlation between the judging viewers' taste judgments and their social positions,[64] but the social logic of distinction is part of the performative arts and their interperformativity. The individual elocutionary artists are not clearly pinned down in a synchronous tableau of sites in the social field, but they all refer to each other, even those who do not directly communicate with each other. A Klaus Kinski develops his extroverted presentations on stages and in front of microphones in the years 1958-1960 precisely in distinction from the classicistic restraint of the Ernst Ginsbergs and Will Quadfliegs in the Literary Archive of the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft; and if a Michael Thalheimer stylizes his Faust or Lessing productions at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin with strict rhythm, then he does so in dissociation from tendencies to neglect language in contemporary director's and body theater.

Before performative artists can relate to social reality, they relate to the reality of the theater and lecture hall, which they want to change. In other words: they don't aim at social reality without simultaneously grappling with the traditional forms of theater, all the more so in times when politics is being turned into theater and when public self-presentation and speechmaking performance in politics and the public realm often seem like cheap copies of theater. Max Reinhardt already said that only theater itself could come to grips with reality's poor imitation  of theater.

Finally, another endogenous factor of the performative arts influencing processes of change is what the Berlin philosopher and music aesthetician Albrecht Wellmer calls "impulses of negation." These impulses have been a specific aesthetic driving force in the arts of the twentieth century, beyond the desideratum of distinction, also in the field of virtuoso recitation. According to Wellmer, such impulses of negation are a "resistance against tendencies toward the cooptation, playing down, and leveling of art at the hands of society, which today means: at the hands of the culture industry, i.e. against the tendency to integrate art in a consumer culture that levels everything."[65] Instead, artists aim at "the potential of an intervention in perception and the recipient's understanding of the world and himself as a characteristic of all significant art."[66] Artistic truth constantly wants to be wrested anew from the conventions of tradition and to make another kind of hearing, another kind of seeing possible. Part of what we perceive as subversive of meaning in the arts that are tied to words is polemically directed against the way texts and scores are buried under the conventions of their reception. Artists develop specific sensitivities and aversions against this.[67] With unusual forms of expression, they strive to intervene in the viewers' and listeners' perceptual capacity in order to let the traditional texts and scores speak in another way. One example of this is the performance of a showpiece of recitation art, Goethe's ballad "Der Erlkönig" (The Erl King), by the actor and reciter Oskar Werner; he extracts from the traditional enjoyable horror of the ballad some true horror and human shakenness by making a tragedy in nuce audible by employing a whirlwind speaking tempo, eccentric contrasts in volume (going as far as roaring and shouting), and a seemingly never-ending general pause before the concluding final verse (a truly counter-rhythmic interruption).

Precisely because our understanding of drama and literature is so weighed down with meaning through preexisting traditions of interpretation, many delicately responsive artists do not simply carry on these traditions, but start out from what is forgotten, repressed, or erratic in the texts or they radically reassemble the text's inventory by using it as a quarry for material, for example in the way that Heiner Müller cannibalized material from Shakespeare plays to let a new meaning leap out, and with it a new view of the underlying play, beyond the traditional interpretations.

Among these negative impulses since the close of the nineteenth century is the opposition to the false "educated" tone in the arts and to the pathetic-sublimity of the Schiller tone. Where Weimar Classicism was taught not only as artistically exemplary, but also as ethically and stylistically normative, protest was inevitable. In Germany, this anti-idealistic impulse probably developed in Gymnasium classrooms in connection with the schools' canonization of Goethe and Schiller and other classic authors. Georg Büchner found the classic formulation for this kind of aesthetic opposition when he explained in a letter to his family why, in his Danton's Death, he did not show the world as would be desirable: "In regard to the so-called ideal poets, I think that they have given us almost nothing but marionettes with sky-blue noses and affected pathos, but not people made of flesh and blood whose suffering and joy makes me feel with them and whose doings and actions fill me with abhorrence or admiration. In a word, I think a great deal of Goethe and Shakespeare (!), but very little of Schiller."[68] What we know as opposition to pathos in the arts since Büchner is the cipher for such aesthetic impulses of negation.

Finally, interperformativity, distinction, and impulses of negation must not lead us to fail to hear the voice of the speaker in its radical uniqueness.[69] The specific manner of this speaking and the physiognomy of this voice can be derived neither from any stylistic history of elocutionary art, nor from the history of the media and of performances. Rather, they are per se eventful and have something surprising and often even upsetting. If the observation by the film critic and audio-visual theoretician Michel Chion is correct that in sound events there is always something "that overwhelms and surprises us, whatever we do, and that, especially if we refuse to grant it our conscious attention, interferes with our perception and exercises its effect there,"[70] then this is even truer for human voices. These affect us already purely physiologically by means of their breath rhythm, volume, and timbre, and they appear to appeal to our unconscious with their erotic resonances. And of course they provoke the wild hermeneutics of a physiognomic that believes it hears in the voice the whole person with his dispositions and moods.

But voices have not only unconscious effects; they draw our conscious attention with the same power as the human face and its expressions do with our eyes. They are attention-grabbers and not simply one body noise among others. Human voices are at the top of the hierarchy of our economy of auditory attention. However the character of the confusion of auditory information is composed - voices, noises, and music - our attention always focuses first on understanding what the voices are saying.[71] As with a face, we recognize in voices not only who is speaking, but also what is meant and how it is meant - essential information that is indispensable for orienting ourselves in the social world of life.

In elocutionary art and in the theater, this individually characteristic aspect of the voice enters a peculiar liaison with what is being presented and its speaker roles. We listen to readings by Walter Schmidinger or Inge Keller in order to enjoy the subtle register of expression and the turns of thought with which they give literary texts presence. We experience their elocutionary art from a two-fold perspective: as a literary-performative coherence of meaning that is won from a text in its presentation, but also as the expression of a subjectivity unique in voice and gesture. This unmistakability is an essential hallmark of elocutionary art, a sign that has gained enhanced importance in times when reciters are subject to a cult of the star.

Great elocutionary artists and actors like Josef Kainz, Fritz Kortner, Marianne Wimmer, Oskar Werner, and Ulrich Mühe are effective precisely because of the nerve tone they touch. They are effective not least also by means of the aesthetic qualities of their voices and their speaking, such as the lack of error in their speaking, the beautiful sound of their voices, and the delicacy of their articulation.[72] In many ways, what Max Reinhardt said in 1901 in his speech "On a theater as I imagine it" is still timely: "...above all, I want to hear beautiful voices. A cultivated art of language, as once existed at the old Burgtheater, yet not with the pathos of that time, but with the pathos of today. I will get the best masters of elocution, and I myself will not tire of working on this task until I have achieved it: that one hears the music of the word again."[73]



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Bauman, Richard: A World of Others' Words. Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Intertextuality, Oxford 2004

Bisky, Jens: "Stimmen, wandelbar. Empfinden soll man im Bett, nicht auf der Bühne: Gustav Gründgens spricht," in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 8 Oct. 2004, Literatur-Beilage, p. 49

Blümner, Rudolf: "Schiller - aber die Schauspielkunst" (1909/10), in: Rudolf Blümner: Ango Laina und andere Texte, eds. Karl Riha and Marcel Beyer, Munich 1993, pp. 146 -150

Bourdieu, Pierre: La Distinction. Critique sociale du jugement, Paris 1979

Brecht, Bertolt: Gesammelte Werke, Vol. 16, Frankfurt am Main 1966

Büchner, Georg: Sämtliche Werke, Briefe und Dokumente, ed. Henri Poschmann, Vol. 2, Frankfurt am Main 1999

Bühler, Karl: Ausdruckstheorie. Das System an der Geschichte aufgezeigt, Jena 1933

Chion, Michel: Un Art sonore, le cinéma. Histoire, esthétique, poétique, Paris 2003

Chion, Michel: L'Audio-visuel. Son et image au cinéma, Paris 1990

Eliot, T. S.: Selected Prose, ed. John Hayward, London 1953

Fischer-Lichte, Erika: Ästhetik des Performativen. Frankfurt am Main 2004

Jünger, Ernst: "Vorbemerkung," in: Die veränderte Welt. Eine Bilderfibel unserer Zeit, ed. Edmund Schultz, with an introduction by Ernst Jünger, Breslau 1933

Kortner, Fritz: Aller Tage Abend, Munich 1969

Koselleck, Reinhart: "Historik und Hermeneutik," in: Reinhart Koselleck, Zeitschichten. Studien zur Historik, Frankfurt am Main 2003, pp. 97-118

Krech, Eva-Maria: Vortragskunst. Grundlagen der sprechkünstlerischen Gestaltung von Dichtung, Leipzig 1987

Krech, Eva-Maria: "Wirkungen und Wirkungsbedingungen sprechkünstlerischer Äußerungen," in: Eva-Maria Krech et al. (eds.): Sprechwirkung. Grundfragen, Methoden und Ergebnisse ihrer Erforschung, Berlin 1991, pp. 193-250

Mann, Thomas, Dr. Faustus, Roman. Die Entstehung des Doktor Faustus, Frankfurt am Main 1967

Meyer-Kalkus, Reinhart: "Art. ‘Pathos,'" in: Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, Vol. VI, Basel 1989, pp. 193-199

Meyer-Kalkus, Reinhart: "Rhetorik der Stimme (Actio II: Pronuntiatio)," in: Rhetorik und Stilistik/Rhetoric and Stylistics. Ein internationales Handbuch historischer und systematischer Forschung, eds. Ulla Fix, Andreas Gardt and Jürgen Knape, Vol. 1, Berlin, New York 2008, pp. 679-688

Musil, Robert: Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, in: Gesammelte Werke in neun Bänden, ed. Adolf Frisé, Vol. 1, Reinbek 1978

Pseudo-Longinus: Vom Erhabenen. Greek and German, ed. Reinhard Brandt, Darmstadt 1966

Reinhardt, Max: Ich bin nichts als ein Theatermann. Briefe, Reden, Aufsätze, Interviews, Gespräche, Auszüge aus den Regiebüchern, ed. Hugo Fetting, Berlin 1989

Saxl, Fritz: "Die Ausdrucksgebärde der bildenden Kunst," in: XII. Kongreß der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Psychologie in Hamburg 1931, Jena 1932, pp. 13-25

Schönherr, Beatrix: "‘So kann man das heute nicht mehr spielen!‘ Über den Wandel der sprecherischen Stilideale auf der Bühne seit den 60er Jahren," in: Maria Pümpel-Madder/Beatrix Schönherr (eds.): Sprache, Kultur, Geschichte. Sprachhistorische Studien zum Deutschen, Innsbruck 1999, 145-169

Schwitalla, Johannes: "Vom Sektenprediger- zum Plauderton. Beobachtungen zur Prosodie von Politikerreden vor und nach 1945," in: Heinrich Löffler/Karlheinz Jakob/Bernhard Kelle (eds.), Texttyp, Sprechergruppe, Kommunikationsbereich. Studien zur deutschen Sprache in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Berlin/New York 1994, 208-224

Staiger, Emil: "Vom Pathos. Ein Beitrag zur Poetik," in: Trivium 2/1944, pp. 77-92

Weithase, Irmgard: Anschauungen über das Wesen der Vortragskunst von 1775-1825, Berlin 1930

Weithase, Irmgard: Die Geschichte der deutschen Vortragskunst im 19. Jahrhundert. Anschauungen über das Wesen der Vortragskunst vom Ausgang der deutschen Klassik bis zur Jahrhundertwende, Weimar 1940

Weithase, Irmgard: Goethe als Sprecher, Weimar 1949

Weithase, Irmgard: Zur Geschichte der deutschen gesprochenen Sprache. 2 vols., Tübingen 1961

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Wellmer, Albrecht: Versuch über Musik und Sprache, Munich 2009



[1] Cf. Reinhart Meyer-Kalkus, Art. "Pathos," in: Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, Vol. VI, Basel 1989, pp. 193-199.

[2] Karl Bühler, Ausdruckstheorie. Das System an der Geschichte aufgezeigt (1933), 2nd unrevised ed., Stuttgart 1968, p. 50.

[3]    Here, Bühler agrees with T. S. Eliot, for example, who advised depicting feelings indirectly by means of an "objective correlative," cf. T. S. Eliot, Selected Prose, ed. John Hayward, London 1953, p. 107 f.

[4]    Thus Brecht in a note from the year 1942, in: Bertolt Brecht, "Deklamation und Kommentar," in: Über Lyrik, eds. Elisabeth Hauptmann and Rosemarie Hill, Frankfurt am Main 1964, p. 124. Cf. also Bertolt Brecht: "Kontrolle des ‘Bühnentemperaments' und Reinigung der Bühnensprache," in: Gesammelte Werke, Vol. 16, Frankfurt am Main 1967, p. 747.

[5]    Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus speaks at one point of "the swollen pathos of an epoch of art coming to its end" (Thomas Mann, Dr. Faustus, Frankfurt am Main 1967, p. 425). Thomas Mann calls instead for "precision" and "boldness," so that the "language seriously [achieves] feeling and life." Thomas Mann: Doktor Faustus. Die Entstehung des Doktor Faustus, Frankfurt am Main 1967, p. 443.

[6]    On the polemic against the Schiller tone, cf. Rudolf Blümner, "Schiller - aber die Schauspielkunst" (1909/10), in: Rudolf Blümner, Ango Laina und andere Texte, eds. Karl Riha und Marcel Beyer, Munich 1993, pp. 146-150, pp. 149 f.

[7]    "The pathos in attitude and language that was appropriate to Schiller and the Shakespeare staged thanks to his period is detrimental to playwrights of our time. ... Genuine human tones are then seldom heard... " Bertolt Brecht, Gesammelte Werke, Vol. 16, p. 747. Brecht recommends instead a realistic speech, shaped by dialects, as practiced by actresses like Helene Weigel and Therese Giehse.

[8]    Already in 1944, the Swiss literary historian Emil Staiger could say that "pathos has long been frowned upon in many areas of art" (Cf. Emil Staiger, "Vom Pathos. Ein Beitrag zur Poetik," in: Trivium 2/1944, pp. 77-92, here p. 77). If one asks actors why this is the case, the answer is, "Pathos is untrue; an honest actor does not permit himself to seem pathetic. One might want to make politics responsible for this. And of course we have every reason to be mistrustful of pathetic speeches in the public realm." p. 77.

[9]    Jens Bisky, "Stimmen, wandelbar. Empfinden soll man im Bett, nicht auf der Bühne: Gustav Gründgens spricht," in Süddeutsche Zeitung of 8 Oct. 2004, Literatur-Beilage, p. 49. Bisky compares sound recordings of Gustav Gründgens from the years before and after World War II.

[10]   Johannes Schwitalla: "Vom Sektenprediger- zum Plauderton. Beobachtungen zur Prosodie von Politikerreden vor und nach 1945," in: Heinrich Löffler/Karlheinz Jakob/Bern­hard Kelle (eds.), Texttyp, Sprechergruppe, Kommunikationsbereich. Studien zur deutschen Sprache in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Berlin, New York 1994, 208-224.

[11]   Ibid., p. 209.

[12]   Ibid., p. 212.

[13]   Ibid., p. 215.

[14]   Ibid., p. 222.

[15]   Ibid., p. 221.

[16]   Ibid., p. 213.

[17]   Cf. Irmgard Weithase, Goethe als Sprecher, Weimar 1949.

[18]   Irmgard Weithase, Sprachwerke - Sprechhandlungen. Über den sprecherischen Nachvollzug von Dichtungen, Cologne, Vienna 1980, p. 35.

[19]   Weithase, Goethe als Sprecher, p. 13.

[20]   "Two world wars have taught us to distinguish between genuine and feigned feeling, to judge true quiet and loud lying tones, to esteem the strength of reserved expression more highly than the unrestrained and ruthless vocal expression calculated for effect." Ibid., p. 12.

[21]   Irmgard Weithase, who first had academic success in East Germany and then in West Germany, had participated with an ethnic/nationalist jargon in the enforcement of conformity in speech training in National Socialism (cf. Irmgard Weithase, Die Geschichte der deutschen Vortragskunst im 19. Jahrhundert. Anschauungen über das Wesen der Sprechkunst vom Ausgang der deutschen Klassik bis zur Jahrhundertwende, Weimar 1940, pp. 291, 320). She is just one example of the group of speech trainers at German universities who became propagandists for National Socialism; it also included Richard Wittsack, the founder of Speech Studies in Halle in East Germany's communist period.

[22]   Eva-Maria Krech, "Wirkungen und Wirkungsbedingungen sprechkünstlerischer Äußerungen," in: Eva-Maria Krech et al. (eds.), Sprechwirkung. Grundfragen, Methoden und Ergebnisse ihrer Erforschung, Berlin 1991, pp. 193-250, pp. 217 f., quoted after Schönherr, "‘So kann man das heute nicht mehr spielen!‘" p. 147. Cf. Eva-Maria Krech: Vortragskunst. Grundlagen der sprechkünstlerischen Gestaltung von Dichtung, Leipzig 1987, p. 104: "The declamatory style of speech in this form (like every artistic style) was a child of its time. It found its zenith and correspondence in the false pathos that characterized official art and the rhetorical style between 1933 and 1945. In 1945, it made way for a greatly intensified style of speech that, substantially interiorized or objective-undercooled, aimed to express the desire for a return to simplicity, naturalness, and genuineness. Many thereby fell into another extreme: in the striving to avoid false and empty pathos, one avoided every pathos." Krech calls this tendency in elocution a "quoting" speech that directly reacts to the Nazi period, an elimination of differentiation in expression that is inappropriate for literary elocution in another way, but that then - probably in the 1960s and 1970s - made way for the "reciting speech style customary today... with genuine, natural, and differentiated expression" (p. 104). - It is not entirely clear whether, with this zero hour of elocution after 1945, Krech is alluding to Brecht's epic theater or to tendencies in the style of presentation in schools. Listening to records of the 1950s from East Germany, for example the addresses and recitations of Johannes R. Becher or official actors like Wolfgang Heinz and Eduard von Winterstein, does not confirm this in any way. Here it seems to be the old topos of the disappearance of pathos after the National Socialist repatheticization that stands in the background.

[23] Cf. Herbert Jhering, Der Kampf ums Theater, Dresden 1922.

[24]   Goebbels's ironic style of argumentation already deviated markedly from it - and exerted a certain attraction on intellectual strata, probably precisely for this reason.

[25]   Cf. Krech, Vortragskunst, p. 103.

[26]   All republished by the meritorious "Edition Mnemosyne," Neckargemünd (ed. Wolfgang Matthias Schwiedrzik).

[27]   Beatrix Schönherr: "‘So kann man das heute nicht mehr spielen!' Über den Wandel der sprecherischen Stilideale auf der Bühne seit den 60er Jahren," in: Sprache - Kultur - Geschichte. Festschrift für Hans Moser, eds. Maria Pümpel-Mader and Beatrix Schönherr, Innsbruck 1966, pp. 145-170.

[28]   Ibid., pp. 148, 167. Beatrix Schönherr claims that, as could be observed in theater productions on television since the 1960s, "the stylistic conceptions in the shaping of speech in roles in the last few decades have changed strikingly. An initial, intuitive description of the changes would probably be that, in many cases, the speech style of that time was more pathetic than customary today, somehow ‘exaggerated.' What is spoken today on stage often sounds more sober, ‘cooler.'" Ibid., p. 145.

[29]   Ibid., p. 150.

[30]   Ibid., p. 149.

[31] Here I take up the hypotheses, based in the sociology of religion, of Ulrich Barth, Religion in der Moderne, Tübingen 2002.

[32]   Dramatics has indeed mostly ignored these aspects up to now. Its focus has been on other things: theater theories and directing concepts, and effects of the visual foreground, space, and sound within the horizon of an aesthetic of the performative. Theater scholars hear voices, but no speaking anymore. Their interest is precisely in the non-semantic aspects of vocal performance. They thereby render homage to a peculiar reductionism - as if there were no formed language on stage - and often miss the level of elocutionary art in their struggle against the literary drama and philology.

[33]   Cf. Reinhart Meyer-Kalkus: "Rhetorik der Stimme (Actio II: Pronuntiatio)," in: Rhetorik und Stilistik/Rhetoric and Stylistics. Ein internationales Handbuch historischer und systematischer Forschung, eds. Ulla Fix, Andreas Gardt and Jürgen Knape, Vol. 1, Berlin/New York 2008, pp. 679-688.

[34] As we read in Pseudo-Longinus's Vom Erhabenen: "No expression" is as great "as that of true pathos when it takes full effect at the right moment: pathos radiates enthusiasm as if under a breath of rapture and fills the words with the might of Apollo." Pseudo-Longinus, Vom Erhabenen. Greek and German, ed. Reinhard Brandt, Darmstadt 1966, p. 41. But this enthusiasm - in Plato's sense: mania - is only one of pathos's possible effects.

[35]   Thus the theater critic Julius Bab wrote as early as 1919: "The word pathos has fallen into disrepute recently because pathetic expressions were perceived from actors for whom it became a substitute for every genuine feeling for life, an empty and meaningless form. But in its real genuine sense, pathos for actors is the direct expression of feeling that breaks forth to correspond to the vehemence of a poet's direct lyrical discharge. Pathos is the suffering, direct devotion to the spirit, the essence of the thing, it is that religious aspect that must be added to every imitation of natural forms, in order to turn a work into true art. No actor of great style, including the naturalistic actor, lacks pathos as the heightening of tone and gesture to a more than natural emotional effect." Julius Bab: Der Mensch auf der Bühne, Berlin 1919, quoted after Erich Drach, Die redenden Künste, Berlin 1926, p. 88.

[36]   Pseudo-Longinus, Vom Erhabenen, p. 33.

[37]   This gruesome pathos is related to what, under the title of miaron (i.e., the undeserved terribleness of suffering), Lessing wanted to ban from the tragic stage.

[38]   As we encounter it in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Viennese culture.

[39]   Schönherr, "‘So kann man das heute nicht mehr spielen!'" pp. 148 ff.

[40]   The emphatic accent is "more marked than emotionally neutral speaking, for example by means of melody line (conspicuous ruptures in tone, higher accentual peaks), but also by means of a greater contrast in volume and dilation." Ibid., p. 148.

[41]   In his directing work, Fritz Kortner still demanded from his actors this kind of pathetic-lofty depiction of suffering and passion. Fritz Kortner, Aller Tage Abend, Munich 1969, pp. 39 f.

[42]   Here a pathetic style "is imposed on a content not adequately fit for pathos," according to Erich Drach, Die redenden Künste, p. 117.

[43]   Pseudo-Longinus, Vom Erhabenen, p. 33.

[44]   "For certain people are often swept away, as if from drunkenness, to passions that no longer arise from the matter at hand, but from their own rehearsed spirit, ... they are enraptured, but their audience isn't." Ibid., p. 35.

[45]   Ibid., p. 35.

[46]   Diderot and Lessung must have had this kind of theatricality as a deformity of pathos in mind when they criticized the neoclassical dramatic style of their time. The actors always played as if they knew they were being watched by viewers and they communicated directly with the audience, ignoring the dramatic situation. By exposing themselves seductively to the gaze of the viewer, they slipped out of their role. An aesthetic illusion, as the precondition for absorption, i.e., for actively following the dramatic action on imagination's inner stage, cannot develop in this way.

[47]   "Gregori [Kortner's first director and teacher in Mannheim] demanded that I depict by means of a snorting-tinsel-turmoil, a compressed air-inflation-razzmatazz and boom-boom, available from court theater's arsenal of clichés for that purpose and occasion. Constantly repeating the gesture of spurring himself on, the actor reassures the audience again and again that the person he is depicting feels terribly bad. This exciter is, so to speak, a messenger from the unembodied person. He reports on how regrettable the situation is for the person he is not depicting. ... The theater subscriber accepts the messenger in place of the person. This is the origin of dramatic messenger-theater business. But people appear only when they are embodied. That is managed only by the extraordinary theater in which, after long birth pangs, a character becomes a human." Fritz Kortner, Aller Tage Abend, p. 84.

[48]   Theatrical is the will to be seen and heard, combined with self-concealment behind masks. Here I eschew the development of a psychoanalytical interpretation of this theatricalization of pathos that might suggest itself from the horizon of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

[49]   Cf. Erika Fischer-Lichte, Ästhetik des Performativen, Frankfurt am Main 2004, pp. 31 ff., 47.

[50]   Christa Wolf, Kein Ort. Nirgends, Berlin/Weimar 1979, p. 131. Here we read of Kleist himself: "Nothing disgusted him as much as these literary phrases that never occur at the climax of our suffering - there we are as mute as any animal - but only afterward and that are never free of falseness and vanity." Ibid., p. 78.

[51]   Lessing had already declared that the task of comic theater was to perceive the ridiculous in the wrinkles of ceremonious seriousness.

[52]   As Fritz Kortner plastically described it: "Personal suffering, displaced by the steamroller of upheavals, stands in the corner, intimidated. Its voice is drowned in the public noise. It is more likely to gain a hearing, quietly. It must not put on airs, as it once did. It must express itself succinctly. [...] The terror of war that lodges in all of us tolerates no animated din of speech and battle. What has happened and threatening horror must make words fail the actor." Fritz Kortner, Aller Tage Abend, p. 106.

[53]   Reinhard Koselleck's thoughts on history and the event, on recurrent layers of time and unique action, offer a model for understanding here: "Every unique action and every unique constellation carried out or tolerated by people who are also unique always contains repeating layers of time. They enable, condition, and limit opportunities for human action and release them at the same time." Reinhart Koselleck, Zeitschichten. Studien zur Historik, Frankfurt am Main 2003, p. 13, cf. also the essay printed there: "Historik und Hermeneutik" (pp. 97-118).

[54]   Robert Musil, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, in: Gesammelte Werke in neun Bänden, ed. Adolf Frisé, Vol. 1, Reinbek 1978, pp. 131 f. (ch. 34).

[55]   Ibid., p. 130.

[56]   Ibid., p. 131. "Ein heißer Strahl und erkaltete Wände" (A hot ray and cooled walls) is the title of the chapter in which Musil develops these ideas in his novel.

[57]   This reminds one of Michel Foucault's "technologies of the self."

[58] "Moskauer Künstlertheater, 22. April 1921," in: Robert Musil, Theater. Kritisches und Theoretisches, ed. Marie-Louise Roth, Reinbek 1965, p. 23.

[59]   Ernst Jünger, "Vorbemerkung," in: Die veränderte Welt. Eine Bilderfibel unserer Zeit, ed. Edmund Schultz. With an introduction by Ernst Jünger, Breslau 1933, p. 7.

[60]   That's what seems problematical about Beatrix Schönherr's thesis, according to which "the style ideals in the area of acting art are subject to similar changes of appearance in approximately the same periods as in elocutionary art, especially since the two arts are often practiced by the same people." Schönherr, "‘So kann man das heute nicht mehr spielen!,'" p. 146, fn. 4.

[61]   Cf. for example Richard Bauman, A World of Others' Words. Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Intertextuality, Oxford 2004, pp. 9 f. This research toward a dialogical history of performance also speaks of the keys of the performance (ibid., p. 10), meaning the various frameworks of interpretation that expectations create for a presentation, i.e., the institutional setting, the audience, the media situation, and the formats that elocutionary art has, from the poetry reading through the virtuoso recitation to the broad field of amateur performances.

[62]   For the history of elocutionary art, the beginning of the cult of the star can be made out in the era of Goethe, for example with Carl von Holtei.

[63]   Pierre Bourdieu, La Distinction. Critique sociale du jugement, Paris 1979. Distinction is based on judgments of what is interpreted as beautiful and not beautiful, chic and not chic, distinguished and vulgar, tasteful or culturally valuable.

[64]   Bourdieu described clearly the social ceremonies and rituals of distancing oneself: for some, a visit to the theater is an opportunity "to see a play and not to show themselves," while for others it is a chance to show themselves and to enjoy something well-made (305 f.); each stance has its own discourses that convey the differing viewpoints.

[65]   Albrecht Wellmer, Versuch über Musik und Sprache, Munich 2009, p. 272.

[66]   Ibid., p. 297.

[67]   "Tradition ist Schlamperei" (tradition is sloppiness), Gustav Mahler is supposed to have said.

[68]   Georg Büchner, "Brief an seine Familie vom 28. Juli 1835," in: idem, Sämtliche Werke, Briefe und Dokumente, ed. Henri Poschmann, Vol. 2, Frankfurt am Main 1999, p. 411.

[69]   On the relationship between personality style and the style of the time, cf. Irmgard Weithase, Sprachwerke - Sprechhandlungen, Cologne 1980, pp. 27 ff.

[70]   Michel Chion, L'Audio-visuel. Son et image au cinéma, Paris 1990, p. 32.

[71]   Cf. Michel Chion, Un art sonore, le cinéma. Histoire, esthétique, poétique, Paris, 2003, p. 210.

[72]   Quintilian already designated the four most important virtues of the speech: freedom from errors, clarity, rhetorical ornament, and appropriateness.

[73]   Max Reinhardt, "Über ein Theater, wie es mir vorschwebt" (1901), in: Max Reinhardt, Ich bin nichts als ein Theatermann. Briefe, Reden, Aufsätze, Interviews, Gespräche, Auszüge aus den Regiebüchern, ed. Hugo Fetting, Berlin 1989, pp. 73 - 76, here p. 74.

1. Friedrich Schiller: Drei Worte des Glaubens

Ernst von Possart (1841-1921), 1909.

DRA Wiesbaden, Archiv-Nr. 002600329

2. Friedrich Schiller: Drei Worte des Glaubens

Irene Triesch (1877-1964), 1927.

3. Friedrich Schiller: Drei Worte des Glaubens

Siegmar Schneider (1916-1995), 1955.

Aufnahme für das Literarische Archiv

der Deutschen Grammophon Gesellschaft.

4. J. W. von Goethe:

Faust I: Erdgeist-Szene

Gerhard Geisler (1907-1977), NWDR 1954, Regie: Gustav Gründgens.

5. J. W. von Goethe: Faust I: Erdgeist-Szene Fritz Kortner (1892-1970), BR 1964,

Regie: Otto Kurth.