As part of our Doctorate research, entitled 'In search of a shallow theatre: Elfriede Jelinek's theatre of surfaces', in which we study this author's texts for the stage, this Internship project at the Goethe University of Frankfurt aims at investigating the fictional representation of theatre and writing for the stage as a fundamental aspect of the Austrian writer's works. Through analyses of three of her plays - No lights (Kein Licht), Rechnitz: The Exterminating Angel (Rechnitz: Der Würgeengel) and Sports play (Ein Sportstück) - and the study of the most important theories of contemporary tragic theatre, with special interest in Christoph Menke's idea of a post-avantgarde 'tragedy of play', we intend to uncover the metatheatrical character of Jelinek's playwriting in order to infer a dramatic and theatrical aesthetics. All three works deal with catastrophic historic events and serious political themes, respectively: the recent nuclear accident in Fukushima, the massacre in the Austrian municipality of Rechnitz in March 1945, and the fascistic potential of violent crowds in sport. When handled on stage, these themes underline theatre's inability to act upon the real world, whether through the creation of a Beckettian atmosphere, through the usage of the 'Messenger' character from ancient Greek tragedy or through tragic choruses which antagonize with the author herself, who appears on stage as "Elektra" in Sports play. The presence in these texts of a deeply sarcastic and self-deprecating humor suggests that this tragedy may be inseparable from a contemporary thought and practice of comedy. Finally, we intend to explore how tragic impotence and skepticism can be used by Jelinek as political and aesthetic strategy in order to achieve her poetic goals and the full potency of her work.
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