The Postdramatic Structure of Müller’s The Hamlet MachineMustafa Çalışkan
Walter Benjamin perceived the documents of civilization to simultaneously be documents of barbarism. Heiner Müller also interpreted Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a cultural document, as a document of barbarism by associating it with the devastating consequences of revolutions in Europe. Müller’s The Hamlet Machine does not correspond to the formal structure of conventional theater known as drama. As a result of the discussions on theatricality, the theater sign system and the organization model of dramatic structure were revised. These revisions reformed but did not deform the dramatic structure. In the postmodern period, text lost its central position, theater’s instruments became independent, and its dramatic structure was deformed. When attempting to comprehend plays such as The Hamlet Machine that are not based on the Aristotelian structure using the concepts and methods of a dramaturgy that makes the conventional elements of the dramatic structure the main criterion of criticism, the problem arises of not being able to determine these types of plays’ aesthetic value. Based on this problem, the current article attempts to comprehend using allegorical aesthetics Müller’s play The Hamlet Machine, which cannot be evaluated using the concepts and methods of organic aesthetics that classical dramaturgy uses. This article analyzes The Hamlet Machine using a dramaturgical method that incorporates the distinctive features of the postdramatic structure as the criterion of criticism. Allegory, double-coding technique, the rhizomatic structure of the play consisting of fragmentary actions, the heap of events unfolded by the theatrical process replacing the dramatization process, collages and montages, intertextuality, and the postdramatic structure were revealed by showing how the play had abandoned the dramatic model of communication using the model of addressing and the monologue order, as well as examples from the play.
Hamlet Makinesi’nin Postdramatik YapısıMustafa Çalışkan
Walter Benjamin kültürel belgeleri aynı zamanda birer barbarlık belgesi olarak algılar. Heiner Müller de bir kültürel belge olan Shakespeare’in Hamlet’ini, Avrupa’daki devrimlerin yıkıcı sonuçlarıyla ilişkilendirerek bir barbarlık belgesi olarak yorumlamıştır. Hamlet Makinesi dramatik olarak adlandırılan konvansiyonel tiyatronun biçimsel yapısı ile uyuşmamaktadır. Tiyatrallik tartışmaları sonucunda, tiyatro gösterge sistemi ve dramatik yapının örgütlenme modeli revize edilmiştir. Bu revizyonlar dramatik yapıyı reforme etmiş fakat deforme etmemiştir. Modern sonrası süreçteyse metin merkezi konumunu kaybetmiş; tiyatro araçları bağımsızlaşmış; dramatik yapı deforme olmuştur. Bu tarz örgütlenme modeline sahip Hamlet Makinesi gibi Aristotelesyen yapıya dayanmayan oyunlar, dramatik yapının konvansiyonel öğelerini temel eleştiri kriteri yapan bir dramaturjinin kavram ve yöntemleriyle kavranmaya çalışılınca bu oyunların estetik değerinin doğru tespit edilememesi sorununu ortaya çıkmaktadır. Bu sorundan hareketle bu makalede yöntem olarak klasik dramaturjinin yararlandığı organik estetiğin kavram ve yöntemleriyle değerlendirilemeyen Hamlet Makinesi oyunu alegorik estetikle kavranmaya çalışılmıştır. Postdramatik yapının ayırt edici özelliklerini eleştiri kriteri olarak bünyesine katan dramaturjik bir yöntemle Hamlet Makinesi çözümlenmiştir. Bu kriterlerden alegori-çifte kodlama tekniği, parçalı eylemlerden oluşan oyunun rizomatik yapısı, dramatizasyon sürecinin yerini alan tiyatral işlemle ortaya çıkan olaylar yığını, kolaj ve montajlar, metinlerarasılık, hitap modeli ve monolog düzeni aracılığıyla dramatik iletişim modelinin nasıl terk edildiği oyundaki örnekler üzerinden ortaya konularak oyunun postdramatik yapısı ortaya çıkarılmıştır.
During the avantgarde period and the periods that followed, plays that were described as having a postdramatic structure gained recognition. The debate on theatricality, which is usually interpreted as a crisis, involves a set of demands. Essentially, the main demand of theatricality was the independence/purity of the text-based theater and therefore was based on writing, with literature being the main heading of arts based on writing. This independence was made possible by changing the sign system with regard to theater and reorganizing the theatrical means in line with these demands. The change of theater as a sign system and the reorganization of theatrical means implied a violation of the dramatic form. The dramatic form known as Hegelian drama that has been valid since the Renaissance, was systematically violated in the avantgarde period. This change, while considered marginal in the avantgarde period, would become dominant in the postmodern period.
Art develops by establishing a bond with the old forms, one way or another. Classical norms are needed for this development. Stylistically, the norms of theater can be described as fixed elements within the system. These fixed elements come together in a certain hierarchical order and have always been circulated as a result of the changes to the hierarchical order throughout history. Previously dominant elements would fall into a secondary position, and those in secondary positions would become dominant. Aristotle’s definition of the hierarchical order of the dramatic structure has constantly been revised since then and places the text in the center. The revisions in the dramatic structure as explained by organic aesthetics, no matter how radical they are, have retained that structure, even if they did erode it. These revisions reformed but did not deform the dramatic structure. However, as text began to lose its central position after the avantgarde period, the hierarchical structure organized around text would change, and this would eventually deform the dramatic structure. In the post-avantgarde period, theater signs and means were shaped around a new organizational model that could no longer be explained with organic aesthetics. Benjamin’s concept of allegory can be used as an aesthetic template (i.e., allegorical aesthetics) for understanding, explaining, and defining this model.
Dialectical development, which is the basic principle of dramatic structure, has been abandoned in new forms of theater such as Müller’s The Hamlet Machine, which has a postdramatic structure. This structure is not based on dialectical development, nor does it present events in a way that forms a complete whole. An accumulation piled on top of each other occurs that can be described as occurring beyond the action. This accumulation is presented in the form of a sign bombardment. The audience gets bombarded. Due to the abandonment of the principle of dialectical development between events, an episodic/ fragmented structure emerges instead of a holistic structure. In the form of fragmentation or montage, the hybrid material (raw material) collected from foreign structures gets presented simultaneously without worrying about originality or style. The assumption is that an audience who is exposed to this type of presentation will be mentally activated by searching for connection points within the mess, unlike an audience whose hands have been tied by the dramatic work they are presented with.
Postdramatic plays that do not focus on the text have no hierarchies (parataxis) nor a single center; instead, they take on a rhizomatic appearance. This is also seen as a necessary expression of the contemporary world, one that is no longer integrated/organic but that instead reflects the postmodern perception of thought. The sign system distributed in this way in the postdramatic structure blurs the meaning. The meaning is produced as a result of correlations. Meaning in a postdramatic structure, which lacks a global relation to validity throughout the text due to not being based on dialectical development, will thus become problematic. The objective expectation of meaning that is recognized in closed/dramatic structures and is independent of people/receptors cannot be met in postdramatic plays. In this respect, postdramatic plays have a relative structure that awaits completion from the audience. Thus, this situation transforms plays of this nature into so-called open works.