Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Theatre & Dance

First Advisor

Oliver W. Gerland

Second Advisor

Bud Coleman

Third Advisor

Merrill J. Lessley


This dissertation challenges the view that drama has been divested of its critical functions under the dominant cultural paradigm of postmodernism and its socio-political correlative, late capitalism. To be sure, contemporary cultural circumstances have pressured “committed drama,” that is, drama that invites audience members to reflect critically on the world they inhabit by raising social and political issues, and by challenging mainstream aesthetic norms. On the one hand, the mainstream theatre, while still making use of some dramatic structural features, dissociates drama from any subversive political purpose. On the other hand, the postdramatic theatre theorized by Hans-Thies Lehmann eliminates the ideas of representation and fictionality, privileging instead the spectator’s phenomenological experience in the moment of presentation. This situation has led some critics to forecast the extinction of drama as an artistic form. Through the analysis of six plays written by contemporary German language dramatists---King Kongs Töchter (Theresia Walser), Transdanubia Dreaming (Bernhard Studlar), Täglich Brot (Gesine Danckwart), Das Kalte Kind (Marius von Mayenburg), Die Frau von Früher (Roland Schimmelpfennig) and Monsun (Anja Hilling)--this dissertation argues for the vitality, liveliness and resistance of the dramatic form. Drama that engages a critical vision of the world, expressed through the representation of fictional characters, continues to be a meaningful method of communicating social, political and ideological commitments.