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Zeitraum und Raumzeit: Dimensionen zeitlicher und räumlicher Narration im Theater

Jan Horstmann


The positioning in space and time of performed narration in theater poses a specific challenge to classical narratological categories of structuralist descent (developed, for example, by Gérard Genette or Wolf Schmid, for the analysis of narrative fiction). Time is the phenomenon which connects narratology and theater studies: on the one hand, it provides the basis for nearly every definition of narrativity; on the other, it grounds a number of different methodologies for the analysis of theater stagings, as well as theories of performance – with their emphasis on transience, the ephemeral, and the unrepeatable, singular or transitory nature of the technically unreproducible art of theater (e. g. by Erika Fischer-Lichte). This turn towards temporality is also present in theories of postdramatic theater (by Hans-Thies Lehman) and performance art. Narrating always takes place in time; likewise, every performance is a handling of and an encounter with time. Furthermore, performed narration gains a concrete spatial setting by virtue of its location on a stage or comparable performance area, so that the spatial structures contained in this setting exist in relation to the temporal structures of the act of theatrical telling, as well as the content of what is told. Both temporal and spatial structures of theater stagings can be systematically described and analyzed with a narratological vocabulary. With references to Seymour Chatman, Käte Hamburger and Markus Kuhn among others, the contribution discusses how narratological parameters for the analysis of temporal and spatial relations can be productively expanded in relation to theater and performance analysis. For exemplary purposes, it refers to Dimiter Gotscheff’s staging of Peter Handke’s Immer noch Sturm (which premiered in 2011 at the Thalia Theater Hamburg in cooperation with the Salzburger Festspiele), focusing on its transmedial broadening of temporal categories like order, duration, and frequency, and subsequent, prior, or simultaneous narration. The broadening itself proves feasible since all categories of temporal narration can be applied to performative narration in the theater – at times even more fruitfully than in written language, as is the case, for example, with the concept of ›duration‹. The concept of ›time of narration‹ too can be productively applied to theater. Whilst a subsequent narration is frequently considered the standard case in written-language narratives on the one hand – a conclusion that is, however, only correct if the narrator figure and narrative stand in spatiotemporal relation to one another, i. e. if a homodiegetic narrator figure is present – it is commonly held that in scenic-performed narration, on the other hand, the telling and the told take place simultaneously. The present contribution argues against this interpretation, as it stems from a misguided understanding of the ›liveness‹ of performance. ›Liveness‹ refers only to the relationship between viewers and performers and their respective presence, but not to their temporal and spatial relationship to the told. Rather, the following will argue that the time of narration in theater (as well as in film) stays unmarked in most cases. It is possible, however, to stage subsequent, prior, or simultaneous narration, too. Immer noch Sturm is one example for a performed subsequent narration. For audiovisual narration, then, a special case of iterative narration (telling once what happened n times) can be identified, which is to tell a few times (n minus x) what happened n times. As an additional category for the analysis of narrative temporality in audiovisual narrative media, I propose what I venture to call ›synchronized narration‹, in order to describe the specificity of spatiotemporal relations in performance. In synchronized narration, two or more events (that happen at different places or times in the narrative world) are shown at the same time on stage. This synchronized performance of several events is only realizable within the audiovisual dimension of spatial narration and not in written-language based narration. Furthermore, for narrative space relations the categories ›space covering‹, ›space extending‹, and ›space reducing narration‹ are suggested in order to analyze the relationships between discourse space and story space(s). Discourse space emerges in the concrete physical space of the performance when narrativity is present. Within this discourse space any amount of story spaces (with any expansion) can emerge. However, whilst in time-extending narration the time of the telling is longer than the time of the told, in space-extending narration the told space is bigger than the space of the telling. This principle is analogously valid for time-reducing or space-reducing narration. The transmission and media-specific broadening of temporal and spatial narratological parameters reveals how time and space form a continuum and should thus be linked and discussed alongside one another in analytical approaches to narrative artifacts. The staging of Immer noch Sturm actualizes a metaleptic structure, in which temporal borders are systematically dissolved and the overstepping of spatial borders becomes an indicator for the merging of different temporal levels. Referring back to established narratological parameters and developing analogous conceptual tools for narrative space facilitates a comparative analysis both of specific narratives and of narrative media and thus not only offers a productive challenge of classical narratological parameters, but allows to investigate and construct a holistic – if culture-specific – overall view of narration.


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Published Online: 2019-09-04
Published in Print: 2019-09-06

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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