Incipit tragoedia?

This research project investigates the crucial role of the reception of classical drama in the German and Austrian culture and literature of the Klassische Moderne. Incipit tragoedia? focuses not only on the reception of drama in traditional terms, but also on the creative and original engagement with the culture of antiquity. After a crisis of classics education in the nineteenth century, the fin-de-siècle Germanophone areas witnessed a surge of interest in antiquity among many artists and scholars who came to conceive it again as a vibrant and enriching intellectual and human experience. Such interest showed the urgency of questions of the modernity of antiquity and of the antiquity/archaicity of the modern, which became intertwined, in multiple contexts, with the rediscovery of Baroque drama and the recovery of Renaissance traditions.

The reception of classical drama in the form of adaptations, remakes, reinterpretations, and rewritings will be investigated in the context of various paradigmatic constellations engendered during that peculiarly productive period of Germanophone culture. From a methodological point of view, the analysis will be grounded on the most recent scholarship and will cherish interdisciplinarity, intertextuality, and intermediality. By situating its objects within the broader cultural and aesthetic debate of the period, this project will examine the timely relevance of the texts under scrutiny.   

Incipit tragoedia? will rely on the following theoretical discourses representing the critical paradigm of the age:  

    • Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy; Incipit tragoedia and incipit parodia: the development of Nietzsche’s aesthetics in The Gay Science; the reception of Jakob Burckhardt’s studies on the Renaissance;
    • New rewritings of classical tragedy in the Wiener Moderne: Freud and “the invention of hysteria” (Didi-Huberman) as a theatrical device;
    • Baroque Trauerspiel and drama (Walter Benjamin): classical and Baroque tradition on the stages of the period (e.g. the Salzburger Festspiele);
    • The cultural memory of antiquity: performance and Pathosformel as defined by Aby Warburg. performance Check-out: Pathosforme in Aby Warburg.

The project aims at thoroughly examining the reception of classical drama in the context of the paradigmatic constellations of the Klassische Moderne from the point of view of its interconnections and potentialities, but also taking into consideration its contradictions and aporias, to ultimately cast a light on the innovative contribution of Germanophone culture to this age of European culture.

PI: Isolde Schiffermüller 


Elisa Destro

Davide Di Maio  

Peter Kofler  

Arturo Larcati  

Marcus Ophaelders 

Gherardo Ugolini

Gabriella Pelloni