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Religion and Identity in Germany Today

Doubters, Believers, Seekers in Literature and Film


Edited By Julian Ernest Preece, Frank Finlay and Sinéad Crowe

In German-speaking Europe, as in other parts of the western world, questions of religious identity have been discussed with sudden urgency since the attacks of ‘9/11’. Nowhere was this clearer than in the heated controversy over the building of a mosque in the city of Cologne, which is the subject of Michael Hofmann’s contribution to this volume. Turkish Germans have also found themselves defined by the religious background of their parents. For different reasons German Jews have faced pressure to reconnect with a religion that their forbears cast off sometimes more than a century ago. At the same time religious belief among the nominally Christian majority has been in retreat. These changes have generated poetry, drama, and fiction as well as a number of films by both well-known and emerging authors and filmmakers. Their works sometimes reflect but more often challenge debates taking place in politics and the media. The essays in this volume explore a range of genres which engage with religion in contemporary Germany and Austria. They show that literature and film express nuances of feeling and attitude that are eclipsed in other, more immediately influential discourses. Discussion of these works is thus essential for an understanding of the role of religion in forming identity in contemporary multicultural German-speaking societies. This volume contains eight chapters in English and six in German.


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SINÉAD CROWE - ‘Das Gefühl des Glaubens’: Religion in the Theatre of Werner Fritsch 137


SINÉAD CROWE ‘Das Gefühl des Glaubens’: Religion in the Theatre of Werner Fritsch In the apparently secular late twentieth century, when most other German playwrights were preoccupied with questions of politics, memory, gender, ethnicity or postmodernity, Werner Fritsch was looking to religion in an attempt to redefine theatre’s place in society. In his programmatic texts, Fritsch drew a parallel between the Eucharist and the ‘flesh and blood’ ontology of theatre in order to assert the latter’s paradoxical ability to give material expression to metaphysical concerns. Railing against the superficiality of late capitalist consumer culture, Fritsch stylised theatre as a surrogate liturgy, claiming that it could fill the spiritual vacuum left in the Western world by the decline of organised religion.1 Ironically, however, Fritsch’s plays exten- sively appropriate traditional religious signs, so that they are parasitic upon the very organised religious forms which they seek to usurp. Most are set in or around the Oberpfalz, the deeply Roman Catholic Bavarian province where Fritsch himself was born and raised, and as such they are littered with biblical allusions and borrowings from the Mass. On stage we find rosary beads, crucifixes and statues of the ‘Muttergottes’, all of which help to create a palpable religious – some might say religiose – atmosphere. Wondreber Totentanz: Traumspiel is, even by Fritsch’s standards, positively drenched in religious signs. The title itself invokes the provincial religiosity of Fritsch’s upbringing, referring to the dance of death fresco painted on the 1 See for example Werner Fritsch, ‘Hieroglyphen des...

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