Der Zuschauer

A Journal of Essays and Reportage on Drama, History, and Literature

Dramaturgy: Definitions

with 10 comments

We have many times remarked on the fact that a singular word can have greater and lesser meanings, that definitions can be in either stark or inane contrast, higgle-piggedly at variance, have additional glosses within glosses, and yes, it is hard to tell where the margins are, what is explication, commentary, and what is simply marginalia. One could cite Dr. Johnson, Pierre Bayle, Voltaire, and of course the great editors of the various editions of the Oxford English Dictionaries, for examples. We can also mention Owen Barfield’s ideas about how meaning in words, singular words, mutate over time. His exploration of single word histories is brillant. He is not a writer to be glossed or paraphrased and so we would refer you to his remakable little book, Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning, first published in 1928.
However, let us have a good gnaw on the hash of definiton; let us try and nail jelly to a wall. It is our intention to sort out this great mess of meaning that comes with the writing down or speaking out of the word dramaturgy.
The Oxford American Dictionary offers the succinct entry: the theory and practice of dramatic composition. That is the whole of it. Under dramaturge we get 1. a dramatist. 2. a literary editor on the staff of a theater who consults with authors and edits texts. Also: “mid 19th cent.: via French and German from Greek dramatourgos, from drama, dramat- ‘drama’ + –ergos ‘worker.” This is all of value and we will return to it. We also would like to point out that the next word entry is Drambouie.
The Shorter OED is less useful, more porous but with some insight. “1. Dramatic composition; the dramatic art. 2. Dramatic or theatrical acting. Now rare. 3. Social. a theory which interprets individual behavior as the dramatic projection of a chosen self.” The entry is quaint, redolent of a distaste for phoney continental hooey words like dramaturgy. The Americans seem to have fetched up the word and given it sharper distinction. And, by the way, here too Drambouie follows dramaturgy, and why not: “Drambouie, from Gaelic, dram buidheach, satisfying drink, and the less robust meaning, a Scotch whisky liqueur.” The Americans mention Scots-Gaelic.
The French Hachette denotates dramaturgie as dramatic art and treatise on dramatic art.
Not surprisingly the Germans lend more to the matter. In the Duden we have for Dramaturgie: “a. dramaturgy. b.dramatization. c literary and artistic director’s department, also script department. A Dramaturg is “a literary and artistic director (who also plans the programme of performances and advises on choice of costumes, scenery.” Script editor is mentioned.

Now, what to make of that? More later.

Various Definitions: An Ongoing List

1) Dramaturgy is the application of historical research and scholarship to actual production.

2) Dramaturgy is mind in the building.

3) Dramaturgy is theatrical literacy.

4) Dramaturgy is structure, structural thinking.

5) Dramaturgy is intellectual charisma in an other wise emotional
vacuity which is called performance.

6) Actors are dumb; designers stupid; and directors, male or female,
are twats in conceptual, theoretical drag.

7) What is all this bull about having new works read before members of a board or committe?

8) Away with the body!

9) Away with peacocks!

10) Away with Pulitzer Prizes!

11) Away with prizes in general and et al.

12) Dramaturgy is most certainly not Marie Inez Fornes.

13) Dramaturgy is not gender-thinking, othering, or institutional, correctional deployment of wheel-chair playmaking.

14) Should there be an “Ode to Joy” at the end of the 9th. Shostakovich said of his 5th “Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.” As Uncle Joe suggested.

15) Brecht is drama, history, and literature.

16) Odon Horvath, lightning did not strike him for no reason, any more than Mihail Sebestian was run over by a truck in March of 1945 in downtown Bucharest. There is evil in the universe.

More To Follow. The World Tour of Dramaturgical Office in places like Ulan Blator has taken a lot out of our staff. For further commentary on Trotsky in Ulan Blator, and Mongolian Cultural History, please see the page, Grabbe, Here.

Written by herrdramaturg

May 28, 2008 at 7:13 am

10 Responses

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  1. Where is Ulan Blator?


    June 7, 2008 at 9:31 am

  2. Isn’t this really a picture from the cast party for Raw Bar/Salty Dog. Didn’t she come in with Norman Mailer?


    June 7, 2008 at 2:45 pm

  3. I will remind you people there was supposed to be an attempt at definition above. If the staff will do its job appropriately then the discussion will follow in an appropriate direction. Is this not what criticism is for?

    PS. I have invited an eminent critic of avant-garde performance at Ulan Blator to address both theatre and Trotsky’s last days there in the early 1950s.


    Max Klinger

    June 7, 2008 at 2:51 pm

  4. I know for a fact that the champagne woman was at the cast party in Wellfleet Harbour but she did not come in with the likes of Norman Wienna Mailer. She came in with me, Detmoldova Zweig. Do not make any more mistakes like this in your reportage, or we will bury you. Detmoldova Zweig, Komeradin.

    Detmoldova Zweig

    June 25, 2008 at 7:11 pm

  5. Whatever has happened to your continuation of the discussion of what dramaturgy means? Remember? Al Gore gets this kind of merde done. What, are you all bombed on jet fuel?

    Germaine de Stael

    July 18, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    • Sirs und Weibchen,
      What did ever happen to your continuing efforts at defining dramaturgy and your discussion of dramatic structure? Is there not a American edition of Hegel on Tragedy? What about Carl Zuckmayer’s Geheimreport? or Deutsche Dramaturgie des 19. Jahrhunderts, or J.M.R. Lenz Anmerkungen ubers Theater?
      I hope you will get back and continue this inquiry. There is Heiner Muller as well.
      My best wishes to you and your staff of Schriftsteller and dramaturgin.
      Claire Waldoff

      Claire Waldoff

      December 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm

  6. What? and there is no dramaturgy in Finland? There is not drama or theatre in Finland? You people haven’t even got into Polish dramaturgy. To many barbecues, too many itsy-bitty, purple, polka-dot bikinis. Please, take yourselves as seriously as we would like to do with you.

    Count Gustave Filip Creutz

    Count Gustav Filip Creutz

    December 10, 2009 at 2:01 pm

  7. I can only concur with the more recent remarks regarding definitons of dramaturgy. Please!
    Erhard Buschbeck

    Erhard Buschbeck

    December 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm

  8. We are Margret Busenvollig Dietrich und Paul Pythonschlange Stefanek, And we would like to recomend our book, Deutsche Dramaturgie von Gryphius bis Brecht, for your ongoing hotseat discussion of drama and dramatic structure.
    Yours sincerely, Maggie und Pauli

    Margret Dietrich

    December 10, 2009 at 2:21 pm

  9. And one might want to look into Goethe’s Theater und Shauspielkunst, as well as Walter Benjamin’s Versuche uber Brecht und his Uber Kafka.

    Alfred Kerr

    December 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm

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