Pure Violence on the Stage of Exception: Representations of Revolutions in Georg Büchner, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Heiner Müller, and Elfriede Jelinek
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This dissertation examines pertinent issues of today's terrorism debate in frequently overlooked earlier representations of revolutionary and state violence. At the center of this debate is the state of exception through which the sovereign legitimizes the juridical order by suspending preexisting civil laws. As recent theorists have argued, this has become the paradigm for modern nation states. Walter Benjamin contends, however, that a permanent state of exception has existed since the Baroque and has subjected its victims to an empty eschaton, an end without messianic redemption and devoid of all meaning. As long as the order of the sovereign is based on the dialectical relationship between law-making and law-preserving violence, this state will persevere and the messianic promise will not come to fruition. Thus Benjamin conceives of another category of violence he calls "pure violence," which lies outside of the juridical order altogether. This type of violence also has the ability to reinstate history insofar as the inevitability of the state of exception has ceased any historical continuity. By looking at the revolutionary dramas of Georg Büchner, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Heiner Müller, and Elfriede Jelinek, this study examines the ways in which representations of revolutions in language reinscribe the state of exception. The history of revolutions in these dramas is comprised of nothing more than the disjointed pieces of intertextual relations and citations of a preexisting language. These pieces construct merely the appearance of a historical code and demonstrate what is at stake for Benjamin: an eternally fragmented history. This study is particularly interested in textual and theatrical moments outside of this code (and outside of representation) that expose the possibility of "pure violence" or a type of revolutionary violence, which would allow for the messianic.
- German