"... und den Kasten zusammenhauen": Televisual Questions and the Dramas of Franz Xaver Kroetz

by Craig Decker
"... und den Kasten zusammenhauen": Televisual Questions and the Dramas of Franz Xaver Kroetz
Craig Decker
The German Quarterly
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Bates College

66 . . .und den Kasten zusammenhauen":

Televisual Questions and the
Dramas of Franz Xaver Kroetz

Reading the culture of TV for its inadver-

tent revelations, we can glean the only

possible advantage from a system whose

intention is to disadvantage everyone, in-

cluding those who profit from it.

Mark Crispin Miller, Boxed In1

From its institutionalization in eighteenth- century Vienna to its contemporary West Ger- man manifestations, the critical Volksstiick exhibits an impulse toward democratizing the theater. The works of such authors as Johann Nestroy, (>don von Horvdth, and Franz Xaver Kroetz represent an attempt to create dramas for and about the lower classes. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the Viennese Burgtheater produced plays ca- tering to the interests and tastes of the aris- tocracy, the Volkstheaterprovided a theatrical forum for the remaining- and more sizeable -population. Nestroy's dramas responded to this cultural dichotomy by focusing on those strata considered "unworthy" of high theater. His Volksstiicke challenged the aristocracy's aesthetic dictates and accessibly presented the concerns of the broad masses. Horvath likewise strove to depict issues confronting the vast majority of Weimar Germany's popu- lace, dramatizing what he considered were "Fragen des Volkes . . . , durch die Augen des Volkes gesehen."His concentration on the petit bourgeois milieu arose from his con- viction that:

Nun besteht . . . Deutschland, wie alle ubrigen europaischen Staaten zu neunzig Prozent aus vollendeten oder verhinder- ten Kleinburgern, auf alle Falle aus Klein- burgern. Will ich also das Volk schildern, darf ich naturlich nicht nur die zehn Pro-

zent schildern, sondern . . . die grolje


Within the present-day theater, Kroetz up- holds this tradition. His cast of characters is drawn primarily from the working class and his plays emphasize the underside of West Germany's affluence, focusing on the economic and/or intellectual privation among the group Kroetz refers to as "die Werktatigen." "Meine Theaterstimrne denen zu geben, die sowieso alles haben," the playwright declared in 1972,

das erschiene rnir verbrecherisch. Man

wiirde die unterstutzen, die keine Hilfe

brauchen, und die treffen, die nach Hilfe

rufen, wenn man Ohren hat, zu horen.

Meine Stimrne gehort ihnen. Ruck-

sichtslos, leidenschaftlich.'

The Volksstiicke of these three authors manifest a theatrical commitment to the disen- franchized; their dramatic subjects all belong to the lower classes of their respective histor- ical periods. In this regard, the texts realize the intent to create theater about the masses. Whether these dramas actually succeed in ap- pealing to them, however, appears more prob- lematic. To be sure, the Volkstheater enjoyed broad-based support in nineteenth-century Vienna. As a result, the social status of the theater audience coincided largely with that of the characters represented in the Volksstuck. When public response to these theatri- cal institutions began to decline in the 1360s,j however, the disparity between dramatic sub- ject and intended audience increased. Thus, when the Volksstiick reemerged in the 1920s, it lacked both the institutional and the mass
The German Quarterly 64.1 (1991) 25

support characteristic of Nestroy's theater. The popularity that literature once commanded among the lower classes gave way to the appeal of the cinema. "In dem proletari- schen und kleinburgerlichen Massenpubli- kum," Anton Kaes has written, "bed das Kino gerade die ~ffentlichkeit, die der Litera- tur abgingU6 Horvath reacted to this develop- ment in two ways. While he attempted to re- generate broad interest in the theater via the Volksstiick, he also explored the possibility of reaching his desired audience through filmic texts.7

The predicament confronting Horvdth also conditions contemporary Volksstiick production. The genre's critics and authors have fre- quently alluded to the continued conflict be- tween the texts' intended and actual spec- tators. Although Kroetz writes expressly for a broad spectrum of the population, the institu- tional context within which his dramas are performed limits their reception. According to Michael Toteberg, a revival in mass sup- port for the West German theater did not occur during the 1970s. This situation, in turn, thwarts a primary impetus of the genre: "Das Volk . . . -so scheint es zurnindest-hat kein grofles Interesse am Theater. Kritische Volksstucke, gespielt in den stadtischen Staatstheatern, erreichen die gemeinten Volksschichten ni~ht."~ Consequently, Tote- berg argues, Kroetz's texts fail in their at- tempt to enlighten the lower classes. Instead of engendering mass political awareness, the Volksstiick may only serve to amuse the very segments of the population Kroetz intends to indi~t:~

"Der Verdacht, dal3 sich hier ein groB- stadtisches Abonnentenpublikum an der scheinbar rustikalen Welt der Provinz ergotzt, ist nicht von der Hand zu weisen."1°

Kroetz is aware of this dilemma and has voiced similar skepticism concerning the re- ception of his works. He has by no means deluded himself into believing his dramatic texts necessarily reach the audience he seeks. The socio-economic factors informing West German cultural institutions presuppose a theater-going public largely different from Kroetz's targeted spectators. "Theater an sich," the dramatist avowed, "ist nun ma1 eine Spezies derer, die es sich leisten konnen, so- wohl finanziell als auch sozial. und das sind die, die das Geld haben und darnit die Erzie- hung, die Ausbildung, die guten Posten."ll The predominantly bourgeois dimensions of West German theater provide little sustenance for the working class. In fact, Kroetz contends, workers attending such institutions may well do so to their detriment. According to the playwright, "Es ist schadlich und unsinnig, den Werktatigen in die Theatergemeinschaft der Bourgeoisie. hineinzuschleusen. Wir haben keine Theater, in denen er sich wohlfiihlen kann, und keine Stiicke, die ihrn niitzen kon- nen."12

Kroetz has tried to address this problem in two ways. While he has continued to write for the theater,'3 he has become increasingly active in areas outside it. His most significant extra-theatrical projects involve television.14 Kroetz's preoccupation with the medium stems, in part, from his concern regarding spectatorship.15 Television offers the author a potentially larger and more diverse audi- ence. By broadcasting his works, he could overcome some of the limitations inherent in the contemporary theater. Kroetz addressed this aspect of television in a 1978 interview: "Meine Chance, an ein breites Publikum her- anzukommen, besteht nur darin, wenn meine Stucke im Fernsehen gezeigt werden. . . ."I6 The actual transmissions of his texts verify the claim. According to Kroetz's own pro- nouncements, the medium has indeed exposed a substantial number of West Germans to the author's works: "Meine Einschaltquo- ten im Fernsehen [sind] . . . auflerordentlich gut. Maria Magdalena hatte 46 Prozent, Weitere Aussichten urn 22.00 Uhr noch 23 Prozent. Das sind dam zwischen funf und fiinfzehn Mil- lionen Zuschauer.""

Public receptivity to television has resulted in another, and equally important develop- ment. Although West German theaters con- tinue to present new performances of Volksstiicke, broad-based support for these offer- ings has not materialized. Audience response -or the lack thereof -significantly affects the concept and contours of the Volkstheater. Consequently, the theater no longer provides the institutional grounding for the Volksstiick; the television set has become the primary locus of Volkstheaterin the Federal Republic.'"

Kroetz applauds the public accessibility that the medium affords the Volksstiick. At the same time, however, he condemns the programs typical of televised Volkstheater. "Die Volkstheatermonopolinhaberim Fernse- hen," the author alleges, only use the medium to promote their own interests, offering West German viewers little more than politically affirmative programming: "[Sie] zeigen so ko- misch wie moglich, wie falsch es ist, aus Ver- haltnissen, die einen bedrangen, ausbrechen zu wollen, weil es am Ende die Umgebung doch verhindert, und der Aufbegehrende dann der Dumrne und Lackierte ist, uber den alles la~ht."'~

The perpetuation of hierarchies within the texts reinforces the status quo; sovereign authorities resist any attempt to transform the social structure. In this respect, the con- temporary television fare evokes aspects of the Viennese Volkstheaterprior to its political transformation by Nestroy."'

The diffidence to which Kroetz refers clearly informs Ferdinand Raimund's Das Madchen aus der Feenwelt oder Der Bauer als Millionar (1826). In that text, the confhct be- gins and is ultimately settled through the inter- vention of supernatural forces. Raimund de- picts a clear division between those "above" and "below." While the fairies can descend to Earth and manipulate the mortals, any human attempts to rise above one's established social position must end in disaster. Abstract magical forces thus appear as the more powerful arbi- ters of social conditions, and the play presents the spectator with the charge to "sei, was du stets hattest bleiben sollen."" Contemporary Volkstheater on television, Kroetz maintains, differs little in its representation of social re- ality: "[Siel zeigen so komisch wie mijglich, wie albern es ist, wenn der Diener sein eige- ner Herr sein will, weil der liebe Gott schon weill, was er t~t."'~

In order to counter such politically affirma- tive programming, Kroetz advocates an Umfunktionierung of televisual Volkstheater. By definition, this process must be twofold: on the one hand, it would involve realizing televi- sion's democratic potential; on the other, it must do so in a form consonant with the genre's progressive impulses. According to Kroetz, "Das Volkstheater, gerade im Fernse- hen, mul3te endlich fiir das Volk sein, und damit automatisch gegen die, die 'mein Volk' und 'meine Arbeiter' ~agen."~~

Wenn ich mich hin und wieder unser

Werbefernsehen ansehe, wundere ich

mich imrner, dalj die Leute nicht dagegen

anstiirmen. Denn welcher totale Irrsinn,

welche beleidigende Gemeinheit ihnen da

von der Werbung zugemutet wird, dalj

sie sich das iiberhaupt gefallen lassen,

dalj sie sich so iiberhaupt anreden lassen,

das allein ist ja schon so verletzend, dalj

sie sich so blode kommen lassen und da

nicht aufstehen und den Kasten zusam-

menhauen . . .


The discrepancies between television's po- tential and actual dimensions inform Kroetz's texts in two significant ways. On one level, the author thematizes the medium's detrirnen- tal effects on viewers. He explores the role television plays in the lives of the lower classes and illustrates the damaging consequences of internalizing the behavioral and linguistic codes of commercial television. Hence, when broadcast, Kroetz's works function on another level as metacritiques of the television in- dustry. The author juxtaposes the existing inadequacies of the medium with counterexamples pointing to its unrealized possibili- ties. Televising his texts thus creates a dy- namic tension between the medium's typical function and its productive utilization. Two of Kroetz's dramas, Das Nest (written in 1974 and initially aired in West Germanyzs in 19792ti) and Oberosterreich(completed in 1972 and first broadcast in 197327) provide representative examples of how Kroetz uses television to demonstrate what it can do-as well as its potential. 28

Das Nest begins in the living room of Kurt and Martha. He is sleeping while she, engaged in cottage industry work, sews ties to- gether. The television set is on and the an- nouncer delivers the text's first words, which introduce an important characteristic of the Volksstuck: intertextuality. However, unMe the literary allusions typical of the genre, the reference in Das Nest does not concern the works of another author. The television voice alludes to one of Kroetz's own dramas: "Sie sahen OBEROSTERREICH-ein Stiick des bayrischen Dramatikers Franz Xaver Kroetz in einer Auffuhrung des Heidelberger Thea- ters. Wir setzen nun unser Program fort mit der Spatausgabe von >>he~te<(."~~

The an- nouncer's remarks serve a double function. On the one hand, they remind the spectator of Kroetz's involvement with the medium, furthering the author's desire to legitimate his presence within the television industry. On the other hand, the introduction of Ober- osterreich provides a larger context within and against which Das Nest unfolds.

Oberosterreich, like Das Nest, opens with the protagonists, Anni and Heinz, in front of the television set. A program has just ended and Heinz turns the television off. However, the attractions of the medium continue long after the broadcast has ceased. The show's conclusion prompts the following interchange:

ANNI: Was die jetz machn?


ANNI: Was die jetz nach der Sendung

machn, das tat mich interessiern.

HEINZ: Warum?

ANNI: Wo es eine live-Sendung is.

HEINZ: lachelt Genau:%'

While the dialogue illustrates the escapist ten- dencies Kroetz considers characteristic of West German television, it also points to a larger televisual issue: the medium's false sense of familiarity.

Television . . . seems to reduce the dis- tance between itself and its viewers, weaving a spaceltime continuum in which spectator and personality share a com- mon universe of experience. Its struc- ture of intimacy creates even the illusion that the powerful members of our society (presidents, prime ministers, the rich and famous) disclose themselves to us in an intimate, familiar, amiable way.31

Indeed, Anni and Heinz wdlingly extend their participation in the show's illusive intimacy. After the program has ended, they begin to fantasize about the stars' private lives, imagin- ing the hosts' euphoric post-broadcast recep- tion. The couple's fantasies about success contrast with the realities of their own lower- middle-class existence. Their absorption in fictional festivities precludes Anni and Heinz from acknowledging the disparity. While the text's recipient realizes the characters' dubi- ous repression of objective reality, the fictional protagonists find the unproductive diversions most comforting. Heinz's final comments re- garding the show's hosts attest to his detri- mental dependence on the medium:32 "Weils etwas ham die zwei was einem imponiert und mitreifit. Man vergil3t sich selber ganz. Das ist das Schone daran, was Mut macht" (386). The contradiction implicit in the notion of find- ing courage through self-effacement constrains the characters throughout the drama.

Am and Heinz not only seek to forget themselves through the stars; they also try to reproduce "celebrity lifestyles." In act 2, scene 1, Anni informs her husband that she is pregnant. Heinz's initial response to the news is an unenthusiastic "Wo mir immer auf- passn mitnander" (394). Anni's dismay over her husband's displeasure is compounded by his cowardly refusal to discuss their upcoming parenthood. She strives to gloss over Heinz's objections and overcome his reticence by celebrating the occasion, hoping that he will once again find courage through forgetting himself-as he did when watching television. When a bottle of champagne does not substan- tially alter Heinz's mood, Anni presents her celebratory pibce de risistance: a seafood salad. She made the dish not because either she or Heinz has a particular fondness for it but because she sees it as a passion of the prominent. "Einen Krappnsalat," she trium- phantly tells her husband, "das is der Lieb- lingssalat vom Curd Jiirgens" (395). Transfer-

ring many of Jiirgens's attributes to the salad, (Das Nest)

Anni offers it to Heinz with the hope that it will transform him into a spouse as suave, self-assured, and manly as the star.

The disparity in this scene between Anni's jubilation and Heinz's dejection exemplifies the discord underlying the couple's relation- ship. Instead of addressing their conflicts, the two insist on displacing their antagonisms via images and pseudoinformation from the mass media. This reflex, in turn, further distances the characters from one another. Neither Curd Jiirgens's favorite food nor "reflections" on television personalities can solve their problems; the protagonists' inappropriate re- sponses only exacerbate their dilemma. The couple's frequent accounting of financial con- straints underscores the gap between their troubled existence and the flair of celebrity life. The dynamics of broadcast television, however, act to obscure that very gap. At the beginning of the drama, Heinz asks Anni why she is so interested in the program's hosts. "Wo es eine live-Sendung is," she replies (385). Her fascination with the concept of a "live show" indicates once again a problematic televisual intimacy. To the extent that she and Heinz are drawn to media personalities, they are drawn apart from each other. The world of the live broadcast invades the couple's liv- ing room and, assuming a far greater impor- tance and appeal than their own day-to-day existence, preempts their lives. Anni and Heinz eagerly accept this change in program- ming.

In contrast, the characters Martha and Kurt in Das Nest react quite differently to the images emanating from their television screen. Their more circumscribed approach to the medium parallels their ability to evaluate their own lives more accurately. The dialogue immediately following the television announcer's introductory remarks in Das Nest virtually repeats the initial exchange in Oberosterreich:


ANNI: Schaltn mir aus?

HEINZ: Genau, wo mir .heute. schon

gsehn ham. (385)

MARTHA: Schaltn mir aus? KURT: Ja, wo mir nheute<< eh schon gsehn ham. (235)

Once the television set stops playing, Martha and Kurt, like their intertextual counterparts, start to discuss the evening's program. The two texts begin almost identically. In their subsequent developments, however, they di- verge substantially from one another. Anni and Heinz vainly attempt to pattern their lives according to media presentations. Martha and Kurt, in contrast, adopt a more distanced position. Whereas Oberosterreich dramatizes a misguided identification with television per- sonalities, Das Nest commences by empha- sizing certain distinctions between the charac- ters and the televised representations they view:

KURT: schaltet den Fernseher aus Was


MARTHA: Weil das grad in dern Stuck

vorkornrnen is, genauso.

KURT: Was?

MARTHA: BloB du hast gschlafn, der irn

Stuck ned.

KURT: Der sol1 einrnal soviel ~ber

stundn machn wie ich und ned soviel

redn, dam sieht er sich gleich hiiaus

und schlaft auch.


MARTHA: Nein, lebnsnah war er nicht. KURT: Uberhaupt nicht, das kann ich beurteiln. (235) The scene is not without its ironic dimensions, since Martha and Kurt are depicted as re- sponding negatively to a televised broadcast of Kroetz's own drama, Oberosterreich. Indeed, the protagonists' charge that the fic- tional character was not at all "lebnsnah" greatly resembles critical objections to Kroetz's recent work as "mager" and "sta- tis~h."~Vn

this respect, the dialogue may well constitute a subtext targeted at the drarna- tist's detractors who have failed to appreciate the extent to which Kroetz's texts focus on the "meager" and "static" intellectual life of a populace dulled by the culture of television.

Within this context it is important to note that the figures in Das Nest exhibit faculties that Anni and Heinz lack. Martha and Kurt's comments focus on the differences between their particular circumstances and those af- fecting the television characters. Their aware- ness of distinctions, in turn, enables them to exercise a degree of critical judgment absent in Oberosterreich." Instead of seeking to oblit- erate discrepancies and lose themselves in the medium, Kurt and Martha realize the sep- aration between their world and televisual presentations.

The initial scene of Das Nest depicts the couple's critical distance to media images. Act 1, scene 5 thematizes their responses to the rhetoric of commercial television, a rhe- toric that also functions according to a false sense of fa~niliarity.~~

Like Anni and Heinz, Martha and Kurt are expecting a baby. The pregnancy causes a number of changes within their household, including an attempt to economize:

MARTHA: Merkst du was?
KURT: Was?
MARTHA: Obst was merkst. Pause Ein

Unwohlbefinden vielleicht? KURT: Warurn? MARTHA: Fiihlst dich wohl in deiner

Haut? KURT: Ja. MARTHA: lachelt ich mu13 dir namlich

etwas verraten: Seit rnir ein bal spa- ren wegn dem Butzile, da spar ich auch ,im Haushalt.

KURT: UberaU ein birjl weg, und es geht.

MARTHA: Ebn, und drum nirnm ich kein )>Lenor((mehr fiir die Wollsachn, kleine Pause, weat es eh, die >)Frau mit dem schlechtn Gewissns.

KURT: Reklarne.

MARTHA: Ja. Aber jetzt wo gespart wird, hab ich mir denkt, l&t das ~schafchenweich~

wie es heat einmal weg und schaust, was passiert mit die Wollsachn. Kratz der Pullover?

KURT: Uberhaupt ned.

MARTHA: Dann bin ich froh und lacht etwas brauch kein Schlechtes Gewissn habn?!

KURT: Nein. (245)

Like the commercial to which it refers, this scene depicts the creation and reduction of consumer anxiety. It does so, however, by inverting the logic typical of advertisements. Most commercials present "concentrated dramatic sequences or 'playlets' in which some problem is reaiized and overcome through the recommendation and use of a branded In the course of a cornmer- cial, "a specific noun is almost always coupled with the same 'explicatory' adjectives and at- tributes [making] the sentence into a hypnotic formula which, endlessly repeated, fixes the meaning in the recipient's mind."37 The seem- ingly natural and inextricable links between product and attributes gives one the chance to buy far more than an individual item. Pur- chasing goods will also allow the consumer to purchase a way of life complete with prestige, popularity, and happiness.

In Das Nest, Martha's resistance to the dic- tates of Lenor's advertisers initially appears to endanger both her emotional well-being and her marriage. While she is able to dispense with a particular product, she finds it far more difficult to cast aside the matrix of rhetoric and emotions associated with it. The notion that she could in fact become "die Frau mit dem schlechtn Gewissn" threatens her posi- tion as both wife and mother. Kurt's reaction helps her to counter the threat. His terse "Reklarne" implicitly acknowledges the dis- tinction between a specific item and the phrases used to promote it. His ability to dis- sociate the object from its advertising context undermines the authority the commercial seeks to establish. Kurt's assurance that his sweater does not itch invalidates any of the advertiser's claims regarding the product's in- dispensability. Moreover, his response desta- bilizes the supposedly fixed images and mean- ings linked to the fabric softener.

The possibility for critical differentiation emerges when the seemingly closed space between object and word, between substance and attribute is opened. Martha and Kurt's dialogue reconstructs and subverts the strat- egies of televisual advertising. In this particu- lar instance, anxiety is reduced not by pur- chasing a particular product but by discrediting the means designed to sell it. The couple realizes that neither their woolens nor their marriage will be adversely affected by the decision to stop using the product. Further- more, their reduced consumption will have a positive effect on their strained budget. The scene thus functions as an anti-advertisement, exposing and undercutting the ways in which commercials manipulate material as well as emotional needs. The false sense of "bad conscience" the advertisers hope to en- gender is indicative of how commercials man- ufacture needs in order to keep consumer society going. When-as in the case of Lenor -products no longer fulfil a particularly ur- gent need, then- according to John Kenneth Galbraith-"the production of goods creates the wants the goods are presumed to satis- fy.":jX The punctuation of Martha's final utter- ance in the passage cited above signals her growing distance from such contradictory strategies and their attending false needs and wants. She is able to transform a tentative question mark into an emphatic exclamation point.

In depicting the transition from initial ma- nipulation to subsequent opposition, the scene encapsulates the larger concerns of Das Nest. The company for which Kurt works (he is a truck driver) has recently laid off a number of employees due to economic uncertainties. Kurt attempts to strengthen his position by dutifully following all of his superior's commands, demonstrating his allegiance to the company by working overtime and, most im- portantly, by removing himself from the poli- tics of the workplace. The protagonist be- lieves that remaining uninvolved with the is- sues confronting his co-workers (and, ulti- mately, himself) will ingratiate hun to the boss. "Weil ich mich aus allem heraushalt und blo13 an die Arbeit denk," he confides to Martha. "Das gefallt ihrn [the boss], sagt er. So tat er alle wolln wie mich, sagt er" (251). As a result of his "preferred status," the boss asks him to empty some "fermented wine" in a nearby lake. The truck driver obediently executes this task, dispensing the liquid into a swimming area that he and his family fre- quently visit.

Shortly after Kurt has finished, his unfe and child bathe in the water. Since the "wine" was actually toxic waste, the couple's son is badly burned. The incident initially causes Martha to declare Kurt a murderer, and her recriminations prompt him to consider suicide. In time, however, the couple com- prehends that Kurt's employer bears the re- sponsibility for the contamination. "Du bist hereingelegt wordn, weilst ein guter Mensch bist! Der ein Vertrauen hat!" Martha explains to her husband. "Der Chef is schuld. Du nicht" (261).

The two slowly perceive the interrelation- ships between the culture of television, the advertising industry, and the socio-economic system they seek to bolster. The manipula- tions inherent to commercials parallel the "soft sell" techniques of Kurt's boss; the false "bad conscience" of the manipulated house- wife corresponds to the "false consciousness" of the exploited worker. By recognizing these deceptions, Kurt and Martha are able to take action against them. Initially the couple sub- verted the supposedly fixed language of adver- tising, enabling them to alter their consumer habits. Subsequently they realize that the seemingly fixed social structure has also been manufactured according to certain interests. As a result of this insight, Kurt and Martha progress from passively accepting socio-polit- ical authority to questioning and then opposing it. According to Kurt:

Die wo iiber uns sind, die sorgn schon dafiir, dal3 unsereins gar ned zum Leben erwacht, wie man so sagt. Das ki'nnen mir jederzeit beweisn. Aber, Martha, wenn mir es jetz, an dieser Stell, ned andern, und den Kopf wieder in Sand steckn, dam sind mir doch diesmal selber schuld, und man kann es auf niemand schiebn. (264)

Oberosterrezch and Das Nest exemplify Kroetz's approach to and appropriation of tele- vision. The author critically examines the medium and dramatizes how it can constrain viewer consciousness. At the same time, he presents models for overcoming the limita- tions of politically affirmative programming. Indicting hierarchical oppression, Das Nest offers an alternative to the type of Volkstheater Kroetz considers typical of television. Martha and Kurt represent the type of recipients Kroetz hopes to create through his texts: those who are able to break away from com- mercial culture and who, to paraphrase Todd Gitlin, think and act as a public rather than a market, as citizens rather than consumers.39

I Mark Crispin Miller, Boxed In: The Culture of TV
(Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1988) 24.
Odon von Horvath, "Gebrauchsanweisung," Gesammel-
te Werke: Kommentierte Werkausgabe in Einzelbanden,
ed. Traugott Krischke, 15 vols. (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhr-
kamp, 1988) 11: 218.

.'Horvath, "Gebrauchsanweisung': 219.

Tranz Xaver Kroetz, "Meine MANNERSACHE," Ein Lesebvdz: StuckelPolemiklGesprache/Filme/Horspiele/ Analysen (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1982) 589-


"iirgen Hein discusses the decline in popularity of the
Volkstheater at this time in Das Wiener Volkstheater:
Raimund und Nestroy (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche
Buchgesellschaft, 1978) 140-49.

"ton Kaes, introduction, Kino-Debatte, ed. and in-
trod. Anton Kaes (Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1978) 14.

' Horvith's fi scripts, many of which he co-authored,
include: Das Einmaleins der Liebe (premiered in 1935
and based on Nestroy's Einen Jux will er sich machen);
Die Pompadour (1935); Buchhalter Schnabel (1936);
Rendezvous in Wien (1936); Das Hermiinnchen (1936);
and Peter im Schnee (1937). Horvath used the pseudo-
nym H. W. Becker for his fh scripts.

For a discussion of selected aspects of Horvath's involvement with and thematization of fh, see Martin Hell, "Kleinbiirgerlicher KunstgenuR: Kino und Trivial. literatur im Werk Horvaths," HorvcithsStiicke, ed. Trau- gott Krischke (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1988) 181-


Volksstiick authors have also provided the contempo- rary West German cinema with both texts and textual models. Eric Rentschler discusses cinematic treat- ments of the Volksstiick and its related form, the "crit- ical Heimatfilm," in "Calamity Prevails over the Coun- try: Young German Filmmakers Revisit the Homeland," West German Film in the Course of Time: Reflections on the Twenty Ears since Oberhausen (Bedford Hills, NY: Redgrave, 1984) 103-28.

In 1972, Rainer Werner Fassbinder filmed Kroetz's Wildwechsel. Krwtz objected to the fi, and he filed and won a lawsuit against Fassbinder. As a result, the passages offending Kroetz were removed from the fi. Kroetz voiced his objections to Fassbider's fi in "Die Lust am Lebendigen: Diskussion der Redaktion kurbiskern [Elvira Hogemann-Ledwohn und Friedrich Hitzer] mit Franz Xaver Kroetz und Helmut Walbert," Ein Lesebuch 638. On the specifics of the lawsuit, see Wielm Roth, "Kommentierte Fiographie," Rainer Werner Fassbindev, ed. Peter Jansen and Wolfram Schiitte, 4th ed. (Munich: Hanser, 1983) 154-57.

"Michael Toteberg, "Der Kleinbiirger auf der Biihne:
Die ~ntwick~un~des

Dramatikers Franz Xaver Kroetz und das realistische Volksstiick,"Akzente 23 (1976): 173.

Kroetz's texts are by no means the only ones subject to such a contradictory reception. The bourgeoisie's reaction to Brecht's Die Dreigvoschenopev, for instance, proceeded along similar lines.

"'Toteberg 173.

" Kroetz, "Soll der Kumpel Abonnent werden? ~ber das Volks- und Arbeitertheater," Ein Lesebuch 576. This situation could eventually substantiate Toteberg's sus- picions. In Kroetz's view, the Volksstiick without a work- ing-class audience may well function as just an "Insider- scherz der Intellektuellen, die zum Wohlfihlen und zur Werbung halt einen Renommierproleten brauchen, privat oder irn Job ("Soll der Kumpel Abonnent wer- den?" 576).

" Kroetz, "Soll der Kumpel Abonnent werden?" 577.

l3 In his Nicaragua Tagebuch, Kroetz declares: "(Ich mag Theater nicht mehr, weil es nicht mehr provozieren kann. Ich kenne keine Theaterskandale mehr. Vor- bei!-Wenn uns die Biirger, die uns bezahlen, nicht hassen, dann stimrnt das Verhdtnis nicht!) Die Theater haben eine restaurative, unterhaltende Geschichtsfunk- tion iibernommen" (Nicaragua Tagebuch: Roman [Hamburg: Konkret, 19851 14). Later in the text, he proclaims: "Privat bin ich . . . mit meinem Beruf durch: es interessiert mich einfach nicht mehr, Theater- stiicke zu schreiben" (57). Shortly after making these claims, Kroetz directed the premiere of his drama Bau- ern sterben at the Munich Karnmerspiele (1985) and then directed the premiere of his play Der Nusser at the Munich Residenztheater (1986). Heimat, which Kroetz completed in 1975, premiered in Freiburg in 1987.

" In addition to the texts discussed later in this article, the following works by Kroetz have been broadcast on television: Herzliche Griipe aus Grado (1973; Kroetz directed the production); Der Mensch Adam Deigl und die Obngkeit (1974); Maria Magdalenu (1974; Kroetz directed the production); Muttertag(l975); WeitereAus- sichten . . . (1975; Kroetz co-directed the production); Mitgift (1976); Heimt (1980; Kroetz directed the pro- duction); Mensch Meier (1982; Kroetz acted in and di- rected the production); Furcht und Hoffnungder BRD (1984).

l5 The question of artistic control also plays a significant role in Kroetz's attraction to television. Kroetz remarked in an interview published in the Suddeutsche Zeitung on 14 May 1974: "Ich habe mir vorgenommen, meine Stoffe in Zukunft in der Realisierung zu kontrol- lieren. Das ist am besten moglich, wenn ich Fernseh- spiele schreibe oder Horspiele und sie dann selbst ins- zeniere. Dann kann ich zu den Ergebnissen kommen, die ich mir beim Schreiben vorgenommen habe. In Zu- kunft mochte ich also mehr mit dem Fernsehen zusam- menarbeiten-mit der Zielrichtung Kino. Dies nicht zuletzt deshalb, weil man mit diesen Medien die mei- sten Menschen erreichen kann" (Rpt. in Franz Xaver Kroetz, ed. Otto Riewohlt [Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkiimp, 19851 125).

'' Donna L. Hoffmeister, "'Ich kann nur schreiben, von dem, was ich sehe, nicht von dem, was ich sehen mochte.' An Interview with Franz Xaver Kroetz," Mod- ern Language Studies 11.1 (1980-81): 47-48.

" Ursula Reinhold, "Interview mit Franz Xaver Kroetz," Weimarer Beitrage 22.5 (1976): 57. Perhaps ironically, Kroetz has gained his widest audience not from the broadcast of his dramas but rather from his leading role in the highly popular 1986 television series Kir Royal. "Tatsachhch gibt es nach der 'Kir Royal'-Aus- strahlung, die pro Folge Einschaltquoten von bis zu 41 Prozent erreicht ( = 14, 16 Mio. Zuschauer), fur Kroetz kein Halten mehr. 'Sonst immer "ganz unten," ist er plotzlich "ganz oben,"' jubelt *Fur Siea (10. 9. 86). ~~Bild<<

meldet '40 Liebesbriefe pro Tag' (18. 12. 86). )>Her zu(( zWt 60 Rollenangebote, darunter die Haupt- rolle als Jockey in der 'Schwarzwaldkliik'-Nachfolgeserie 'Platz und Sieg,' die der Pferdezuchter Kroetz, ob- wohl 'Feuer und Flamme,' dam doch nicht bekommt

(24. 7. 87)." (Wolfgang Schneider, "Der Musenficker," Konkret 15.1 [1988]: 48). Schneider charts the vari- ous-and frequently contradictory-phases in Kroetz's career as a media personality in "Der Musen- ficker" 46-50.

'"In discussing the differences between West German Arbeitertheater and Volkstheater, Kroetz claimed: "Die ersten machen ihr [Arbeiter-] Theater auf einem Marktplatz, in einer Ada, die anderen ihres [Volksthea- ter] im Fernsehen. Die ersten vor Zweihundert, die anderen vor zwanzig Millionen" ("Soll der Kumpel Abonnent werden?" 574).

'Woetz, "Soll der Kumpel Abonnent werden?" 574.

"' For a discussion of Nestroy's radicalization of the Viennese Volksstiick, see Erich Joachim May, Wiener Volkskomodie und Vormiirz (Berlin: Henschel, 1975); Theodor Adorno, "Reflexion uber das Volksstuck," Noten zur Literatur, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1971) 639-40; Ernst Fischer, "Johann Nestroy," Von Gn'llparzer zu Kafka: Sechs Essays (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1975) 145-242; and Craig Decker, "Toward a Critical Volksstiick: Nestroy and the Politics of Language,"Monatshefte 79.1 (1987): 44-61.

" Ferdinand Raimund, Das Miidchen aus der Feenwelt oder Der Bauer als Millioniir, Samtliche Werke, ed. and afterword Friedrich Schreyvogl (Munich: Winkler, 1960) 201.

"Kroetz, "Soll der Kumpel Abonnent werden?" 574.

'.' Kroetz, "Kritik statt Spal3," Fernsehen und Film 7 (1971): 16.

'"einhold 51.

" Kroetz performed the leading male role in the West German television production. For his reaction to play- ing this part, see Kroetz, "Den eigenen Text spielen," Franz Xaver Kroetz 220-23.

'Was Nest was first produced for television and broadcast in the German Democratic Republic in 1976. For a discussion of Kroetz's reception in the GDR, see Otto

F. Riewohlt, Von Zuckmayer bis Kroetz: Die Rezeption westdeutscher Theaterstiicke durch Kn'tik und Wksen- schaft in der DDR (Berlin: Schmidt, 1978) 218-26.

"The broadcast scheduled for 25 April 1973 was to be followed by a discussion between Kroetz, Ludwig Han- kofer, and Hans-Georg Frieser. However, the ZDF abruptly cancelled the broadcast "weil die nachfolgend vorgesehene Diskussion, so die Ansage an diesem Abend, 'nicht der Anforderung des ZDF-Vertrages auf Sachlichkeit und Ausgewogenheit' entspreche. Auslo- send fiir diesen Eingriff war eine Glosse der Fernseh- zeitschrift Gong" (Riewohlt, Franz Xaver Kroetz 95). In reference to the discussion, Helmut Markwort con- tended in Gong 16 (1973): "Ausgerechnet irn ZDF und nur 85 Minuten nach Gerhard Lowenthal wird . . . eine Diskussion ausgestrahlt, die von Kommunisten unter- wandert ist. Unterwandert klingt hart, ist aber genau das richtige Wort, denn niemand von den verantwortli- chen Leuten im Sender hatte die geringste Ahnung, wer da im Studio saR" (Rpt. in Franz Xaver Kroetz 93). Despite repeated protest, the eventual broadcast of Oberosterreich did not include the discussion. While these two texts are representative of how Kroetz uses television in his dramas, there is no clear consen- sus as to how representative these plays are of Kroetz's dramatic oeuvre. In accordance with Kroetz's own proc- lamations and as a result of his 1972 decision to join the German Communist Party, many critics have desig- nated 1971-72 as a turning point in the playwright's career. According to this view, the plays written during the years 1968-71 (i.e., the "early" works) differ from those that follow in terms of character, plot, and dramaturgical dynamics. Whereas the characters of Kroetz's initial plays are largely inarticulate and unable to undertake any sort of constructive action, the figures of the later plays appear linguistically more competent and socio-politically more aware. Accordingly, critics discuss the early plays largely in terms of a "Mitleids- drarnaturgie," whiie subsequent texts are viewed as incorporating principles of aesthetic estrangement. Horvath and Fleil3er provide the acknowledged model for Kroetz's early dramas, a model Kroetz himself calls "descriptive realism." The later works appear to move toward an affiliation with Brecht and with what Kroetz terms "analytic" or "engaged realism." (Kroetz dis- cusses this development most clearly in "Zu Bertolt Brechts 20. Todestag," kiirbiskern 77.1 [1977]: 91-100.)

For a representative discussion of how critics view the phases in Kroetz's playwriting career, see Susan

L. Cocalis, "'Mitleid' and 'engagement': Compassion andlor Political Commitment in the Dramatic Works of Franz Xaver Kroetz," Colloquia Germanica 13 (1980): 203-19; Richard W. Blevins, Franz Xaver Kroetz: The Emergence of a Political Playwright (New York: Lang, 1983); Evalouise Panzer, Franz Xaver Kroetz und seine Rezeption: Die Intention eines Stuckeschreibers und seine Aufnahme durch die Kritik (Stuttgart: Klett, 1976); Jurgen H. Petersen, "Franz Xaver Kroetz: Von der Tragodie der Unfreiheit zum Lehrstuck fur Werktatige," Amsterdamer Beitrage zur neueren Germanistik 16 (1983): 291-312; Ursula Reinhold, "Franz Xaver Kroetz -Drarnenaufbau und Wirkungsabsicht," Weimarer Bei- trage 22.5 (1976): 60-79; and Michael Toteberg, "Der Kleinburger auf der Buhne."

29 Kroetz, Das Nest, Ein Lesebuch 235. Kroetz, Oberosterreich, Gesammelte Stiicke (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1979) 385.

," Farrel Corcoran, "Television as Ideological Apparatus: The Power and the Pleasure," Critical Studies in Mass Communication 1 (1984): 137.

" For an analysis of how other mass media affect the characters, see Dieter Kafitz, "Die Problematisierung des individualistischen Menschenbildes im deutsch- sprachigen Drama der Gegenwart (Franz Xaver Kroetz, Thomas Bernhard, Botho StrauR)," Basis 10 (1980): 97-104.

33 Kurt Hohoff, for example, has condemned Das Nest: "Das Drama zeigt Kroetz' Wunsch, das Theater in den Dienst seiner politischen Meinung zu stellen. Aber je dicker der Zeigefiger, desto magerer das Drama" ("An der Sprachlosigkeit entlang: Das Theater des Franz Xaver Kroetz," Merkur 30 [1976]: 193.) Lie- wise, Giinther Riihle: "Kroetz hat versucht, aus dem puren Dasitzen, aus dem Nicht-weiter-kommen aus- zubrechen und seinen Figuren wieder Taten abzugewin- nen . . . . Aber wo bis zu diesem Punkt Wahrheit ist in seinen Stiicken, narnlich die Wahrheit der Wahrneh- mung, wird dieser dramatische Aufbruch der Personen ihm zu Papier. Die Wahrheit in den neuen Stiicken ist eine statische" (Anarchie in der Re&? Theater in unse- rer Zeit. 2 vols. [Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 19821 2: 221).

" Their ability to differentiate also signals their resistance to the workings of broadcast television. According to Mark Crispin Miller, "The televisual montage bol- sters our inability to differentiate, its spectacle of end- less metamorphosis merely making all images seem as insignificant as any single image seen for hours" (324).

" In One-Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse analyzes how the language of advertising, like the medium of television, "is tinged with a false familiarity- the result of constant repetition, and of the skillfully managed popular directness of the communication. This relates itself to the recipient immediately-without distance of status, education, and office-and hits him or her in the informal atmosphere of the Living room, kitchen, and bedroom" (One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society [Boston: Beacon, 19641 91-92). Gian Dyer, Advertising as Communication (London: Methuen, 1982) 10.

'j7 Marcuse 91. "John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society, 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976) 128. "Todd Gitlin, "Prime Tie Ideology: The Hegemonic Process in Television Entertainment," Social Problems

26.3 (1979): 225.

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