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Threshold aesthetics : aesthetic argumentation of the atreidaen myth in twentieth-century German literature

posted on 14.02.2017, 00:58 by Mosiere, Michelle Anita
The threshold presents an image of the human condition in an irreducible form. As a topos and metaphor, it offers dramatists a rhetorical means to reconcile the incongruity and ambivalence of life. This is because the threshold can be used to rediscover, rearticulate and resolve ontological discrepancies that are at the very core of mankind's existential predicaments. The more frequently the aesthetic image of the threshold appears in a process of aesthetic argumentation, the more convincing its power of persuasion over time. As a construct upon which argumentative positions are established, the threshold is developed into an explanatory and didactic tool. Threshold aesthetics examines how cognate images of the threshold present as aesthetic arguments. An interface between the visual and the conceptual, threshold aesthetics not only exposes why threshold images express the underlying arguments of myth and drama, but also how dramatists and critics alike develop their own threshold aesthetic when conceptualising, illustrating and interpreting threshold experiences. This study proposes that the divided and polemic nature of being that underlies the topos of the threshold generally is what defines the problematic of the Atreidae specifically. By attributing the Atreidaen myth's internal coherence, aesthetic argumentative capability and dramatic potential first and foremost to the threshold, this study uses threshold aesthetics to explore the nexus of associations between the Atreidaen myth, its dramatic versions and their historical contexts. By using the Atreidaen myth to explore the relevance and significance of threshold aesthetics, this study offers a new approach to the dramatic structures and meaning of both the Atreidaen stories and their development in the history of ideas and literature. It does so by combining a reception history with an original study of rhetorical argumentation in dramas such as Aeschylus' Oresteia, Sophocles' Electra, Euripides' Atreidaen-based tragedies, Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Elektra, Gerhart Hauptmann's Die Atriden-Tetralogie, lIse Langner's Klytiimnestra and Volker Braun's Iphigenie in Freiheit. Collectively, the interpretations of these dramas present a means to extrapolate from the dialogue between antiquity and modernity an ongoing symbiotic relationship between image and argument. This relationship translates into the threshold aesthetics that emerge in the German-speaking realm during the Viennese fin de siecle, World War II, the allied occupation of Germany and German reunification. Exploring these aesthetics in tum reveals the manifold ways in which the threshold is imbued with meaning and the extent to which that meaning is itself shaped by society and culture.


Principal supervisor

Walter Veit

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

German Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts