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Writing of the Wordless. Literary Pantomime around 1900 (2022-)

Nina Tolksdorf, Research Area 2: "Travelling Matters"
Associated Research Project

The project “Writing of the Wordless. Literary Pantomime around 1900” discusses the relevance of pantomime for German media and literary theoretical discourses around 1900. Although pantomime was an inherent part of social, intellectual and literary life, it is rarely the subject of literary and cultural studies. The project intends to help in closing this research gap by focusing on the intermediality of pantomime. For, at that time, pantomime was not only exceptionally prominent in theatres, cabarets and funfairs, it also became an essential part of silent movies and was the subject of a number of theoretical discussions. Moreover, canonical and lesser-known authors wrote a considerable number of texts, which they labelled “pantomimes”. These texts are the chief subject of the proposed project. Some are short notes with instructions for possible performances; some are written as plays but without speech; some are short prose texts; and still others are musical scores with short remarks for performances on stage. The project will show that these texts are not only directions for performances but valuable objects for literary and rhetorical analyses, since they frequently discuss the possibilities and impossibilities of writing the wordless. In other words: these texts pose questions of representation, which, due to the intermediality of pantomime, concern the modes of representation of different media. Because pantomime partakes in diverse arts, media and discourses, it allows for an intermedial analysis of its modes of representation. Pantomime in film, on stage and as text can thus be read as a theory of representation, which comments on and influences media theoretical questions around 1900.